Speaking to Today’s Zaman, Mehmet Görmez, head of the Religious Affairs Directorate, said he cannot accept the Islamic religious order --fatwa -- issued by Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Shaikh, adding that the mufti’s remarks run contrary to the centuries-old Islamic teachings of tolerance and the sanctity of institutions belonging to other religions.
He emphasized that Islam has always respected religious freedom. “The opinion of the grand mufti also obviously contradicts the agreements that the Prophet of Islam signed with the non-Muslim communities both in Medina and in the region. It also plainly overlooks the right of immunity given by Islam to the holy shrines and temples of other religions on the basis of the rule of law throughout its history,” Görmez explained.
Sheikh Abdulaziz reportedly made the controversial statement during a meeting with a delegation from the Kuwait-based Society of the Revival of Islamic Heritage in response to a query about Shariah law concerning the construction of churches in Muslim countries. He issued the fatwa in March, saying that further church building should be banned and existing Christian houses of worship should be destroyed.
Görmez slammed Abdulaziz, stating, “We strongly believe that this declaration has left dark shadows upon the concept of rights and freedoms in Islam that have always been observed on the basis of its sources, and it will not be recorded as an opinion of Islam.” He also added, “We, therefore, entirely reject the aforementioned opinion and hope that it will be amended as soon as possible.”
Turkey’s top Muslim cleric challenged the Saudi grand mufti’s assertions on the established principles in Islam. “We believe that the mentioned opinion is evidently against the aims of Islam, especially in a region that witnessed the descent of the Holy Quran and the first application of the Sunnah of the Prophet. It is against the Muslim tradition’s established practice of respecting non-Muslims’ rights as well,” he noted.