Saudi king prays with Rif’at al-Asad in Mecca

Posted by Alex

12 October 2007

BBC Monitoring Middle East

Source: Quds Press news agency, London, in Arabic 12 Oct 07

Images broadcast by Saudi and Arab satellite channels showing King Abdallah Bin-Abd-al-Aziz performing Id al-Fitr prayers in the holy mosque in Mecca today, Friday, with former Syrian Vice-President Rif'at al-Asad near him have angered the Syrians, elite and ordinary people. Writers and human right activists viewed this as a political use of a losing card against the Syrian regime "but with total disregard for all principles, norms, and values".


(old photo of Rifaat Assad/ Source unofficial Rifaat Assad's site)

In Damascus, ranking political circles that spoke to Quds Press and requested that their identities remain undisclosed described this as "a bad and ill-timed message" and viewed it as interference in Syria's domestic affairs. "The Saudi monarch's appearance next to Rif'at al-Asad in the holy mosque in Mecca is a bad and ill-timed message from King Abdallah. It tries to torpedo what is left of Arab solidarity through a bad message and interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state," the circles said. The political circles warned the Saudi leaders against playing such cards. "This is not the first time the Saudis receive Syrian opposition figures. They know very well that if Syria opens its doors to the Saudi opposition, the gates of hell will open on the Saudis."


The circles said the political message that the Saudi monarch's audience with Rif'at al-Asad in Mecca sends is very clear; namely, that "the Saudi policy lost its sensibility and associated itself with the plan of the neoconservatives, specifically (US Vice-President) Dick Cheney through (Saudi Crown Prince) Prince Sultan (Bin-Abd-al-Aziz)."

For his part, Haytham al-Malih, a Syrian lawyer and human rights activist, said he was very surprised at the reception that the Saudi leadership accorded Rif'at al-Asad.

In an exclusive statement to Quds Press, Al-Malih said: "Rif'at al-Asad is a criminal politician who must be brought to trial for perpetrating a massacre in Tadmur in which 913 prisoners were killed. He was the one who forcibly removed the veils of Muslim women in Damascus streets, stole Hamah antiquities, and violated the honour of the city's women. How could the custodian of the two holy mosques receive him and perform prayers next to him?"

Al-Malih said the political dimension of the reception is clear to everyone, but it is just a political dimension with no religious association. "I am really surprised at this matter, which proves that politics has no religion. But we, as Muslims, believe that politics has religion. This is why I strongly denounce this. I do not think Rif'at al-Asad should be received anywhere, certainly not in a place like Mecca."

In Paris, Haytham Manna, spokesman for the Arab Human Rights Committee, criticized the official Saudi reception of Rif'at al-Asad and said the Saudi leadership cannot stoop to the level of receiving "those who committed crimes against humanity."

He added: "As acknowledged by two courts in Europe, Rif'at al-Asad committed crimes against humanity, crimes that neither time nor pilgrimage can drop. One must pay the price of his sins so that he can meet his God while clean."

Manna said the hosting of Rif'at al-Asad is one of the sides of the Saudi-Syrian differences. "If there are Syrian-Saudi differences, this does not justify Saudi Arabia's attempt to use all means, including some criminals, and employ the media to harm others," he said.

He added: "I don't think that the wisdom of a person like King Abdallah allows him to use losing cards in political conflicts." He said the reception reflects Saudi Arabia's position towards a number of issues. This position, he added, "has become personalized. It is no longer a wise political position befitting the weight of the kingdom. Rif'at al-Asad does not represent Islam, and in Mecca specifically, the end does not justify the means."

Source: Quds Press news agency, London, in Arabic 12 Oct 07

Comments (52)

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51. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


If you think Israelis cannot change their leaders themselves and are stuck, I given you permission to interfere and change the leaders for us. I am dead serious. So go for it. I certainly plan to do the same for you.

But let’s see, since the two thugs Hafez/Bashar have taken office how many leaders have been changed in Israel:
Meir, Rabin, Begin, Shamir, Peres, Shamir, Rabin, Netanyahu, Barak, Sharon, Olmert

And Olmert is being investigated for alleged crimes he has committed. Is Bashar being investigated for any of his corrupt practices or human rights violations?

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October 15th, 2007, 11:15 am


52. wizart said:

Pope visits Golan Heights
Pope John Paul visits Quneitra

The pope was greeted by cheering crowds in Quneitra
Pope John Paul II has wound up a politically sensitive three-day visit to Syria, after visiting a ruined town in the Golan Heights.

The pontiff led prayers at an abandoned church in the Syrian-held ghost town of Quneitra, calling upon the peoples of the Middle East to “tear down the walls of hostility and division”.

From this place, so disfigured by war, I wish to raise my heart and voice in prayer for peace in the Holy Land

Pope John Paul II
He also offered special prayers for the latest victims of the Israeli-Palestinian violence in the Gaza Strip.

Syrian officials were eager to show the Pope the town, 65km (40 miles) south of Damascus, which was destroyed by the Israelis before being handed back to Syria in 1974.

Syria has deliberately left Quneitra in ruins as a memorial to what it calls Israel’s barbaric behaviour.

Thousands of former Quneitra residents were bussed in for the Pope’s visit, during which he also planted an olive tree as a symbol of peace.

Correspondents say the visit once again plunged the Pope into an explosive political arena, reviving memories of his visit to Israel last year, when he saw the situation from the other side of the Golan.

The BBC’s David Willey says that, while the pontiff is likely to be well aware of the propaganda value to Syria of the Quneitra visit, he believes the town to be a fitting place to underline his calls for Middle East peace.

Pope arrives in Quneitra

The pontiff has persisted with his calls for a renunciation of violence amidst a barrage of insults being hurled between Syria and Israel.

As the Pope arrived in Syria, President Bashar al-Assad made a impassioned speech labelling Israelis as “the betrayers of Jesus”.

The verbal onslaught continued on Monday, with Syria accusing the Israelis of a long history of crimes against Palestinians and against sites sacred to Muslims and Christians.

“The contemporary Zionists are the same as those Jews who were fought by Jesus Christ who in turn uncovered their hypocrisy and crimes,” read a front-page editorial in the government daily Tishreen newspaper.

On Sunday, Israel’s President Moshe Katsav called on the pope to reject such sentiments, calling them “racist” and “anti-semitic”.

Historic visit

The Pope made history on Sunday by becoming the first Roman Catholic pontiff to set foot in a mosque, where he prayed for peace in the Middle East.

Christian Syrians greet Pope John Paul II on his arrival in Damascus

The Pope has received an enthusiastic welcome in Syria
In an address at the Umayyad mosque, he said Muslims and Christians should “offer each other forgiveness” for all the times they “have offended one another”.

A plan to offer joint Muslim-Christian prayers was dropped, apparently for fear of wounding Muslim sensitivities.

But our correspondent says that at the end of his visit to Syria, the Pope can claim a considerable personal success in the warm welcome he received not only from the small Catholic community, but also from Christians of all the other various denominations present in the country.

The Pope travels on Tuesday to the Mediterranean island of Malta, where more than 90% of the population is Catholic.

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April 15th, 2008, 8:19 pm


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