Cairo/Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz issued two statements decrying the international community’s silence towards the conflicts raging in the Middle East, particularly Israel’s offensive in Gaza on Friday. The Saudi monarch’s statements—one addressing the international community at large and another issued during a meeting with Saudi leadership figures and religious scholars in Jeddah—received strong support from national and regional figures and states.
A statement read out on behalf of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques on Saudi state television on Friday described the Israeli offensive in Gaza as being a “war crime against humanity.” The Saudi monarch also condemned the international silence towards the Israeli aggression. “We see the blood of our brothers in Palestine being shed in collective massacres . . . All taking place before the eyes and ears of the international community, the King’s statement said.
“This [international] community which has observed silently what is happening in the whole region, was indifferent to what is happening, as if what is happening is not its concern. Silence [such as this] has no justification,” the statement added.
Palestinian ambassador to Saudi Arabia Bassem Agha welcomed King Abdulla’s speech, describing the Saudi monarch as the “champion” of the Palestinian cause.
“No doubt, every Arab and Islamic person knows that King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz is the constant champion of the Palestinian cause. We respect and cherish this statement,” the Palestinian ambassador told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shokri also praised the Saudi monarch’s comments about the situation unfolding in Gaza.
“No doubt, the international community must bear the responsibility [for this silence] and carry out its mission to preserve international peace and security and take clear and quick procedures that will lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state and end the occupation,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Cairo is playing a central role in seeking to end the ongoing conflict between Hamas and Israel in the Gaza Strip, with a Palestinian delegation currently in Cairo to discuss a prolonged ceasefire.
“The Egyptian initiative is a real chance to find a real solution to the crisis taking place in the Gaza Strip,” Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi told reporters on Saturday.
Shokri reiterated King Abdullah’s condemnation of the international silence towards the situation in Gaza, calling for Palestinian human rights to be respected.
“We are calling for the Palestinian human right to establish a state and live in peace,” he said.
King Abdullah also urged Muslim leaders and scholars to stand up and confront the extremist groups and ideologies that are seeking to hijack Islam. He called on “leaders and scholars of the Islamic nation to carry out their duty toward Allah Almighty and stand in the face of those trying to hijack Islam and [present] it to the world as a religion of extremism, hatred and terrorism.”
In a subsequent meeting with Saudi religious scholars in Jeddah, King Abdullah directly called on the scholars to work harder to combat false extremist interpretations of Islam.
“I have nothing to say other than my previous address, which you have heard today. I think it was expressing what every Muslim, male or female, all over the world feels,” the King said, according to the state-owned Saudi Press Agency.
King Abdullah called on religious scholars to carry out their duties to promote “true Islam.”
“You are responsible to carry on with your duties, the [duties] of guiding [people] how to live and [propagating] your religion,” he added.
“Those who are playing this [terrorist] role are distorting the pure image of Islam and the conscience of Muslims,” the Palestinian ambassador told Asharq Al-Awsat, praising the Saudi monarch’s comments.
Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Sheikh also criticized the international silence towards the various conflicts and crises unfolding in the Middle East.
“The massacres that are taking place in Gaza and the international silence towards this are saddening and alarming. It is as if they [the international community] are accepting these shameful acts,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.
He also warned against the threat of Islamic extremism, saying that the Muslim world today faces a “grave threat” from groups claiming to be Muslim, but who are threatening to destroy the Islamic world in the name of Islam.
Sheikh Al Sheikh praised the Kingdom’s counter-terrorism efforts, not just its security and military apparatus, but also cultural and educational programs to promote true Islam and combat extremist ideology.
Nasser Al-Haqbani contributed reporting from Riyadh. Sawsan Abu Hussein and Walid Abdul-Rahman contributed reporting from Cairo.