(AFP) — Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad Monday called for a battle against Wahhabism, the political and religious ideology embraced by the Saudi government, a key backer of the uprising against his regime.
The comments came amid ongoing tensions between the two countries, which are fiercely opposed to each other.
“President Assad said that extremist and Wahhabi thought distort the real Islam, which is tolerant,” state news agency SANA said.
“He underlined the role of men of religion in fighting against Wahhabi thought, which is foreign to our societies,” the agency said.
Wahhabism is an ultra-conservative Muslim tradition, which is predominant in Saudi Arabia and applied to both religious and political life.
Assad’s remarks during a meeting with religious clerics from Lebanon come a day after Saudi King Abdullah accused the Syrian leader of “destroying his country”.
The monarch, who is hosting French President Francois Hollande, also accused Assad of having attracted Islamic extremists to Syria.
Groups affiliated with and loyal to Al-Qaeda are now among those fighting on the ground against Assad’s government.
Saudi Arabia is a key backer of the rebels fighting against Assad’s regime, and the Damascus government accuses the kingdom of funding “terrorists” seeking to destroy Syria.