Saudi clerics 'call for jihad against Russia'

Saudi clerics 'call for jihad against Russia'
Analysis: A statement signed by more than 50 clerics calling for 'jihad' against the Russian and Iranian 'invasion' of Syria has set off alarm bells in Riyadh - and elsewhere.
3 min read
07 October, 2015
The clerics described Syrian jihadists as 'holy warriors' defending Syria from Russia and Iran [AFP]
An informed Saudi source has told al-Araby al-Jadeed that the authorities will prosecute all Saudi clerics behind a statement issued on Sunday calling for jihad against the Russian "invasion" of Syria.

Officials say the clerics' statement violates a ban on Saudis fighting in foreign conflict zones, which is part of a 2014 anti-terror law.

According to the source, who asked not to be named, Riyadh's Interior Ministry has decided to launch an investigation into the statement published by 55 preachers and clerics, most of whom are Saudis.

Hundreds of Saudis are thought to be fighting in Iraq and Syria
More than 40 Saudi nationals who had returned from fighting Syria and Iraq have so far been tried under the law - while more than 1,500 others are being tried in absentia.

Observers ahve drawn comparisons between the clerics' statement and previous calls for jihad in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion - a movement which eventually developed into al-Qaeda and its offsprings in the Islamic State group, the Nusra Front and others.

Most of the clerics who signed the statement are known in Saudi Arabia for their hardline views.

According to analysts who spoke to al-Araby, the majority of the signatories are Salafis, particularly from the Surour movement, named after founder Mohammed Surour Zain al-Abidin from Syria.

The analysts accused the clerics of seeking a religious war, after the Russian Orthodox Church reportedly blessed the Russian intervention - to produce a "new Afghanistan" with the help of radicalised Gulf and Arab youths.

Nasser al-Omar, one of the signatories, claimed on Twitter that the statement did not call for fighting in Syria.

"The statement... regarding the Russian and Iranian invasion of Syria sets out the Sharia-based approach to dealing with it, and is not a call for [people] to go there," he tweeted.

The statement

"Give all moral, material, political and military" support to the war against the Syrian government and its Iranian and Russian backers, the clerics said.

The clerics also referred to the Syrian rebels, many of whom are hardline Islamists, as "holy warriors... defending the Arab nation".

"If they are defeated... it will be the turn of one Sunni country after another."

The statement comes as Iraq, Iran, Syria and Russia have formed an intelligence-sharing centre in the Iraqi capital.

Since September 30, Russia has been conducting air raids across Syria against the positions of rebels and jihadists alike, at the request of the Damascus regime.

"The Western-Russian coalition with the Safavids and the Nusairis are making a real war against the Sunni people and their countries," the statement read, using the jihadist terms to refer to Iranians and Alawi Muslims respectively.

The statement further called on Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar to intervene - as they have explicitly declared they would support the Syrian people.

It also called on Arab and Islamic countries to recall their ambassadors from Iran and Russia.

The conflict in Syria, which began in March 2011, has claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people and left over one million injured.