Saudi preacher denies supporting jihad in Syria

Sheikh al-Arifi denies having called for jihad in Syria despite videos showing him doing just that

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A popular Saudi preacher who previously called for jihad in Syria has recently appeared on television bluntly denying his famous statement, drawing scorn from fans and followers on social media.

During an interview with Rotana Khalijia, Sheikh Mohammad al-Arifi denied his famous statement to Al-Jazeera in which he called for jihad in Syria and supported al-Qaeda.

Sheikh Arifi threw a bombshell in February 2013 when he told the Qatar-based channel that al-Qaeda “does not tolerate bloodshed.”

He said some people attribute to al-Qaeda many opinions and thoughts which the group does not hold.

"These beliefs in fact are not correct. Al-Qaeda members do not tolerate accusing other Muslims of apostasy and they do not tolerate bloodshed. I am not part of al-Qaeda and I do not adopt their thinking, but Allah says: ‘And when you testify, be just,’” Arifi said.

During his recent TV interview, Sheikh Arifi also denied having predicted the coming of an Islamic caliphate.

However, a 2013 YouTube video of the sheikh in a Cairo mosque shows him addressing people in a sermon and saying: "I swear to Allah (the caliphate) is coming. It's as if I am seeing it with my own eyes."

Sheikh Arifi also denied meeting with former Brotherhood prime minister Hisham Qandil in his office, saying he only ran into him by coincidence during one of his sermons.

Egyptian television had reported that Sheikh Arifi's paid an official visit to the Muslim Brotherhood leader.

The denials by Arifi shocked many followers and fans on the social media.

"Why can't Arifi be brave and adhere to his principles?" one Twitter use wrote, reminding of Arifi's famous statement praising al-Qaeda and his subsequent backtracking.

In late June, Arifi was banned from entering Britain following reports that was involved in radicalizing three young British citizens allegedly now fighting in Syria.

Arifi is known for his controversial statements and fatwas. In one example, he said a daughter should not sit alone with her father for fear that she might tempt him into lusting after her.

Arifi’s controversial views and fatwas are often the source of ridicule of many Saudis, including other clerics, newspaper columnists and social media users.

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