RIYADH – With many Muslim youth travelling to Syria to join oppositions’ fight against Bashar Al-Assad regime, Saudi Arabia’s grand mufti, the highest religious authority in the birthplace of Islam, has urged young Saudis to refrain from fighting in Syria.
“This is all wrong, it’s not obligatory,” Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh said, in reference to Saudi men joining a civil war that is now in well into its third year, according to pan-Arab daily al-Hayat, Reuters reported.
“These are feuding factions and one should not go there. I do not advise one to go there.
“Going to a land that you do not know and without experience, you will be a burden to them, what they want from you is your prayer,” he added.
More than 93,000 people have been killed in two years of fighting between Assad’s regime and opposition fighters in Syria.
The fighting has forced more than one million Syrians to flee their home to neighboring countries in addition to the displacement of two millions others inside the country.
Last June, prominent Sunni Muslim scholars from across the Arab world called Jihad against Al-Assad, describing his crackdown on anti-regime protests as a war on Islam.
Leading among attendees in Thursday’s meeting were Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, the president of the International Union for Muslim Scholars, and Sheikh Hassan al-Shafai, from Al-Azhar.
Qaradawi has also called on Sunni Muslims to join opposition forces in their fight against Assad’s regime.
In April 2013, two Salafi scholars in Lebanon have called for Muslims to join the Syrian opposition to fight against Assad’s regime over Hizbullah’s involvement.
Following repeated fatwas, thousands of foreign fighters are believed to have joined the war against Assad’s regime in Syria.
The grand mufti, appointed by the Saudi king, also warned preachers against encouraging young men to fight in Syria during their sermons.
“Muslim should be fearful of God and not deceive young Muslims and exploit their weakness and lack of insight and push them to an abyss,” the mufti was quoted by the paper on Monday.
“I advise them (preachers) to advise (young people) as they would advise their sons.”
Al-Sheikh’s warning was given during a lecture on “Deviation among the youth” at a mosque, the paper said.
The kingdom has backed the rebels battling Al-Assad, publicly calling on the world powers to “enable” Syrians to protect themselves.
Yet, it appeared that the Saudi government was wary that fighters could return home ready to wage war on their own dynastic rulers.
The Saudi warnings followed reports from a Gulf source familiar with military movements in the region in September 2012 that thousands of Saudis had sought to head to Syria to join the uprising.
It is not known how many succeeded.