Britain bans controversial Saudi cleric al-Arifi

Saudi preacher was accused by the British media of radicalizing three young British citizens allegedly now fighting in Syria

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Controversial Saudi preacher Mohammad al-Arifi has been banned from entering the United Kingdom, the British foreign office confirmed to Al Arabiya News on Wednesday.

This week, the cleric was accused by the British media of radicalizing three young British citizens allegedly now fighting in Syria.

“We can confirm Mohammad al-Arifi has been excluded from the United Kingdom,” a Home Office spokesperson said in a statement.

“The UK Government makes no apologies for refusing people access to the UK if we believe they represent a threat to our society. Coming here is a privilege that we refuse to extend to those who seek to subvert our shared values,” the spokesperson added.

See also: British paper: al-Arifi groomed UK jihadists

Arifi, who is banned in Switzerland for his extremist views, had been preaching jihad at the al-Manar Center in the British city of Cardiff in 2012, according to a report by the Daily Mail on Sunday.

A video and photograph posted online show excited worshippers flocking around him, according to the newspaper.

Elders of the al-Manar Center, which claims on its website that in addition to serving Cardiff’s 11,000-strong Muslim community, “also plays a humble role in introducing the non-Muslim population of Britain to the religion of Islam,” are due to meet this week to discuss the issue, the Mail reported.

Arifi is often known for making controversial statements and fatwas in the past – one ruling being a call for daughters not to wear revealing clothes in the presence of their fathers.

And though he has many followers in Saudi Arabia and across the region, Arifi’s controversial views and fatwas are often the source of ridicule of many Saudis, including other clerics, newspaper columnists and social media users.

Last year, the cleric claimed in a television interview that the late al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was a victim of wide-level character assassination, although later backtracked on his remarks.

In December 2012, Arifi urged parents to prevent their kids from watching MBC3, a sister channel of Al Arabiya TV, because he described its content (which is mostly cartoons) as a way to promote “atheism and corruption.”

MBC3 issued a statement describing Arifi’s Twitter post as “tendentious and far from reality altogether,” saying that the sheikh should seek psychiatric help.

Among those who criticized him and other preachers are TV host Dawood al-Shirian on Al Arabiya’s sister channel MBC Al-Shirian interviewed the mother of a Saudi teen who had gone to fight in Syria.

In response to Shirian’s remarks, who slammed clerics for using social media to incite Saudi youth into jihadist activities, Arifi claimed that the interview had been set up, adding that the Saudi society is not “naive” enough to be “deceived” by attempts to taint the image of Muslim preachers.

Sheikh Arifi has long urged Muslim youth to travel for Jihad in Syria, while he would himself spend his summer break in Europe to escape from the scorching summer heat in Saudi Arabia.

In June 2013, he appeared in a video giving a Friday sermon in Cairo, urging “heroic” Egyptians to “get up and help their brothers in Syria.”

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