Controversial Saudi cleric backtracks on his defence of Osama Bin Laden


Prominent Saudi preacher Mohamed al-Arifi backtracked on Saturday on controversial statements he made this week on Qatar's Al Jazeera television in which he defended slain al-Qaeda leader Oussama Bin Laden.

In a statement posted on his Twitter account, Arifi, a professor at King Saudi University, cited a saying by Omar bin Khattab, the second Caliph of Islam, saying that a man can review his mind from previously taken decisions and ‘return to righteousness.’ Arifi made the connection of his tweet to his previous saying on al-Qaeda.

[In his television interview with Al Jazeera,][http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2013/02/08/265035.html] Arifi said Osama Bin Laden (who he referred to as "Sheikh Oussama" and prayed for his soul to be blessed) was a victim of wide-level character assassination.

He also said that 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.

Further to his tweet backtracking those statements, Arifi published a new video online saying his previous opinion about al-Qaeda was based on “false” information he obtained in interviews with some al-Qaeda members and experts.

“What I am saying now overwrites what I said before and I backtrack on it,” Sheikh Arifi said, answering question by a caller on the phone during a television program.

“The return to righteousness is better than holding on to what is wrong,” Arifi said, adding: “I ask Allah for forgiveness and I repent to him.”

His statements on Al Jazeera prompted wide condemnation on social networking web sites , with many people accusing him of encouraging terrorism.

In those controversial statements Arifi said that from his meeting with al-Qaeda members who went through the kingdom’s terrorist rehabilitation program, he discovered that they did not hold opinions and thoughts often attributed to al-Qaeda.

“Even al-Qaeda leader Sheikh Oussama Bin Laden, may his soul rest in peace, did not adopt many of the thoughts that are attributed to him today,” Arfif explained.

[To read more about his previous statement click here.][http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2013/02/08/265035.html]