DUBAI - Saudi Arabia's grand mufti, the highest religious authority in the birthplace of Islam, has urged young Saudis to refrain from fighting in Syria.
The kingdom has backed the rebels battling President Bashar Assad, publicly calling on the world powers to "enable" Syrians to protect themselves, but is wary that fighters could return home ready to wage war on their own dynastic rulers.
Islamists in Saudi Arabia, who follow a puritanical version of Sunni Islam, denounce Assad and his administration as infidels because of their roots in the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.
However, Sunni Muslim al-Qaida fighters led by Saudi-born Osama bin Laden attacked targets inside Saudi Arabia between 2003 and 2006, having gained experience fighting in Iraq, and before that in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
"This is all wrong, it's not obligatory," Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh said, in reference to Saudi men joining a civil war that is now in well into its third year, according to pan-Arab daily al-Hayat.
"These are feuding factions and one should not go there. I do not advise one to go there ... Going to a land that you do not know and without experience, you will be a burden to them, what they want from you is your prayer."