In another mark of how high sectarian feeling is running in the middle east, Friday’s televised sermon for weekly prayers at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Makkah included an outspoken personal attack on Bashar Al Assad — a tyrant whose troops he said had molested women, killed children and destroyed homes over the past two years.
“All of that puts on the shoulders of each one of us a share of responsibility before God … to take a unified and conscious stand.
“Our brothers need more efforts and determination to be exerted to remove the merciless injustice and aggression through all means and with no exceptions,” Shaikh Saud Al Shuraym told worshippers.
Saudi clerics usually reflect a government line and the comments were unusually explicit in their political nature.
Since the 7th-century schism between Sunni and Shiite Islam, relations have been punctuated by conflict. In modern times, the strict Wahhabi school of Sunni Islam adopted by the Saudi monarchy has generally been more hostile to Shiites than the Brotherhood, a movement founded in Egypt in the 1920s.
That the Brotherhood now echoes Saudi hostility underlines a hardening of attitudes which could fuel unrest that has already troubled Lebanon, Iraq and some Gulf states, as well as Syria.