RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, (AP) – A Saudi cleric announced Monday on his television show that he will visit Jerusalem next week to bolster Muslim claims to the city.
If Sheik Mohammed al-Areefi goes ahead with his plan, it would be an unprecedented trip for a prominent Saudi. Jerusalem is the third holiest site in Islam, but most Muslim countries — including Saudi Arabia — observe a strict boycott of Israel and ban travel there.
Al-Areefi told his viewers Sunday on the religious satellite channel Iqra that the next episode of his show would be about Muslim claims to Jerusalem and Palestine. Al-Areefi said he would visit the city next week, though he did not specify when.
He said he was not afraid of any “treachery from the Jews,” as he had put his trust in God.
Officials in Israel, which is in the midst of the Passover holidays, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Al-Areefi is viewed as a comparative moderate among Saudi Arabia’s conservative clergy.
His show is aimed at encouraging young people to get involved in their communities and contribute their time in humanitarian work. It features a studio audience of young people and live call-ins from viewers.
Al-Areefi is currently visiting Jordan.