Has Saudi Arabia begun preparing its people for normalization with Israel?
A sermon delivered on Friday by Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, the imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, has been interpreted by some Arabs and Muslims as a prelude to normalization with Israel.
He pointed out that Prophet Mohammed “performed ablution from a polytheistic water bottle and died while his shield was mortgaged to a Jew.”
According to Sudais, the prophet was so good to his Jewish neighbor that the latter converted to Islam. Sudais also talked about the need to “correct and purify the Islamic faith from false and suspicious beliefs.”
The imam had previously called for peaceful inter-faith dialogue and preached Islam’s opposition to “explosions and terrorism.”
Saudi Arabia has agreed to allow Israeli flights into its airspace. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan recently said the kingdom was open to establishing relations with Israel on condition that a peace agreement is reached between Israel and the Palestinians.
Sudais’s words sparked a wave of protests on social media, where many Arabs and Muslims claimed he was paving the way for Saudi Arabia to follow suit with the United Arab Emirates and establish relations with Israel.
Egyptian Islamic scholar Mohammed al-Sagheer accused the Saudi cleric of hypocrisy. “He is paving the way for normalization and treason,” Sagheer commented.
Islamic cleric Muhammad al-Shinqiti of Mauritania accused Sudais of exploiting the podium of the Grand Mosque in Mecca to promote normalization with Israel.
Abdel Fatah Fayed, Egyptian affairs editor at Al-Jazeera, said the bottom line of the Friday sermon was that “submission, normalization and loyalty to Israel” are permitted. He added: “Al-Sudais does not have the right to tamper with Islam. Nothing can justify treason.”
Algerian Twitter user Mohamed Mestour posted a picture on the social media platform of Sudais with the caption: “I’m a rabbi, not an imam.”