RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah condemned Friday Islamist extremists who he said have besmirched Islam by committing atrocities in the name of religion, and spoke out against “international silence” as Israel pursues its bloody offensive in Gaza.
“It is shameful and disgraceful that these terrorists are doing this in the name of religion, killing people whose killing Allah has forbidden, and mutilating their bodies and feeling proud in publishing this,” the king said, in a short address read out on his behalf on television.
“Our nation is going through highly critical times, and history will be the witness against those who were the instruments and tools used by the enemy to divide the nation and to distort the pure image of Islam,” he said, in remarks addressed to Arab and Muslim countries, and the international community.
The Saudi monarch appeared to be responding in particular to a series of atrocities committed by militants from ISIS, the Al-Qaeda splinter group that controls a wide swathe of territory in Syria and Iraq.
In recent weeks ISIS militants have posted gory footage of their actions in both countries, such as summary executions and displaying the severed heads of their victims, who have included soldiers from both countries’ armies, as well as Syrian rebel fighters.
They have also declared a caliphate in areas they control, and are adamantly opposed to rulers in the neighboring countries of Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
Abdullah urged the region’s leaders and religious scholars to prevent Islam from being “hijacked” by militants, and expressed his disappointment over the lack of any follow-up from other countries to his proposal two years ago to establish an international center to combat terrorism.
“The proposal was endorsed by the international community at the time, but we were later disappointed by the lack of a serious response,” he said.
Abdullah also condemned international silence over Israel’s offensive, saying it qualified as a war crime and “state-sponsored terrorism.”
“We see the blood of our brothers in Palestine shed in collective massacres that have excluded no one, and war crimes against humanity without scruples, humanity or morality,” Abdullah said.
“This [international] community, which has observed silently what is happening in the whole region, has been indifferent to what is happening, as if what is happening is not its concern. [It is] silence that has no justification,” he said.
Abdullah has been involved in cease-fire efforts, holding meetings with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to discuss the crisis.
Saudi Arabia has so far pledged nearly $80 million in aid for the Palestinian people since the Gaza war began.
Abdullah warned that if left to continue, the fighting in Gaza will “result in a generation that rejects peace and believes only in violence,” he said.