PARIS - Turkey's top Muslim cleric has stepped into an international row over Christianity on the Arabian Peninsula, rejecting comments attributed to the Saudi grand mufti that all churches there should be destroyed.
Mehmet Gormez, head of the Religious Affairs Directorate in Ankara, told a Turkish newspaper that Islam respected the rights of other faiths and calls for the destruction of churches went against centuries of tolerance.
Reports that Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Shaikh had issued a fatwa, or religious order, against churches last month prompted protests from Christian bishops in Austria, Germany and Russia and provoked a storm on Christian websites around the world.
Gormez, in an interview published by Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman on Friday, said: "The mentioned opinion is evidently against the aims of Islam (and) against the Muslim tradition's established practice of respecting non-Muslims' rights as well."
"We strongly believe that this declaration has left dark shadows upon the concept of rights and freedoms in Islam that have always been observed," he added.