RIYADH, (AP) – Saudi Arabia’s top religious authority warned Saudis against giving money to charities and organizations financing “evil” groups, a top local daily reported Sunday.
The warning by Grand Mufti Sheik Abdul-Aziz Abdullah al-Sheikh comes just days after police found an audio message from al-Qaeda No.2 Ayman al-Zawahri exhorting his followers to collect money for needy families in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“It is bad to give funds to just anyone who asks and to parties with shabby reputations or unknown backing,” the mufti said in a statement carried by the daily al-Okaz, which is deemed close to the government.
“It’s even worse to give it to an organization that’s known for its evil and for hurting Islam and its followers,” he added in an apparent reference to al-Qaeda, which has carried out attacks on foreigners in Saudi Arabia.
Though the Saudi government has waged a crackdown on the group since 2003, individual citizens and are widely believed to be supporting it and allied organizations through private donations to Islamic charities.
Many reports carry evidence that private Saudi money has been funneled into known Islamic terrorist groups, prompting pressures on the Saudi government to monitor the traffic of charitable funds.
Some U.S. lawmakers had also insisted that oil money from the royal family itself has been diverted into numerous nonprofit organizations supporting terrorist activity.
The Interior Ministry found al-Zawahri’s message on the memory card of a mobile phone of one of 28 militants whose arrest was announced March 3 for allegedly being tasked with rebuilding al-Qaeda’s network in Saudi Arabia.
In October, the government-appointed mufti asked wealthy people to exercise vigilance on where they donate their money. He also warned young “religious zealots” against becoming tools in the hands of foreign groups “which play with their feelings in the name of holy war.”