February 18, 2015 | Quote

Saudi Cleric: The Sun Revolves Around the Earth

While al-Khaibari’s remarks have been mocked on social networking sites such as Twitter, regional experts say his anti-science stance is embraced and promoted by leading Saudi clerics in charge of the country’s religious authority.

“It makes perfect sense for a Saudi cleric to be arguing that the sun revolves around the Earth because this is the sort of message they are getting from on high,” according to David Weinberg, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD).

“Saleh al-Fawzan, one of the most influential members of the regime’s highest religious body, the Senior Ulema Council, said the same thing last year,” explained Weinberg, who has also tracked the new king’s past support for radical terror groups. “King Salman restructured most of his government last month after coming to power, but he kept Fawzan on the Ulema Council, dismissing only one member who was considered a relative moderate.”

This is a sign that Salman, who has been touted by many as a moderate, could continue to allow the country’s strict religious authority to clamp down on civil rights and other Western values.

Al-Khaibary’s lecture on astronomy took place in late January, during a government-sponsored lecture in the United Arab Emirates, according to sources provided by FDD. He has given similar lectures sponsored by the Saudi government.

In addition to promoting the notion that the Earth is stationary in space, al-Khaibary’s mentor cleric Fawzan has claimed that the Islamic State (IS) terror group is a creation of “Zionists, crusaders, and Safavids,” according to Weinberg.

“That’s the sort of message that Saudi religious officials are receiving from the state’s favorite clergy,” Weinberg said.

FDD’s Weinberg said that al-Khaibary’s position on Saudi Arabia’s religion council provides a sign of the direction that country is heading.

“This gives you an idea of where Saudi Arabia is headed under King Salman,” he said. “Salman kept Fawzan on the Senior Ulema Council while dismissing a relative moderate. He [enjoys close ties to] the current grand mufti, who says that all churches in the Arabian Peninsula should be destroyed. And he sat for years on the board of the foundation set up to honor the legacy of Abdul Aziz bin Baz, even though bin Baz also memorably suggested that women who study with men are akin to prostitutes.”

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