Saudi asks clerics to avoid embarrassing kingdom
By Mariam Isa
RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's crown prince has asked clerics to tone down their sermons to avoid embarrassing the kingdom or aggravating anti-Muslim sentiment around the world following the September attacks on the United States.
"I hope you appreciate your responsibility before God, your people and officials, so we do not land in an embarrassing situation... We are a moderate nation and there should be no exaggeration in religion," Crown Prince Abdullah said in remarks published Thursday by the English-language Arab News.
"Brothers, you know we are going through difficult days ... Now you are a target for those against Islam," added Abdullah who is Saudi Arabia's day-to-day ruler.
The government has urged official clerics to issue statements making clear that the kingdom condemned the attacks, blamed by Washington on Saudi-born dissident Osama bin Laden.
But some clerics have recently stepped up anti-Western rhetoric in their Friday sermons, sharply criticizing non-Muslims and denouncing supporters of the U.S.-led military strikes on Afghanistan as nonbelievers
Several dissident clerics have also said that Muslims should have as little contact as possible with Christians and Jews.
The daily gave a fuller account of Abdullah's presentation Wednesday to senior religious and judicial officials than a report issued the same day by the Saudi Press Agency.
Diplomats in Riyadh said the request by Abdullah was significant because the government was acknowledging for the first time its concern about Saudi Arabia's image abroad as an Islamic state that fosters extremism, following the attacks on the United States.
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