KUALA LUMPUR: Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin says he has no issue with the participation of Shia-majority Iran in the ongoing Kuala Lumpur Summit despite his vocal criticism of Iran and Shia teachings.
“They are a nation, so they can participate. I criticise matters I disagree with, but as a Muslim nation, they are free to come,” Asri told FMT on the sidelines of the summit here, where he was a speaker in a session on the economy.
The KL Summit which opened yesterday angered Saudi Arabia, whose three main critics – Iran, Turkey and Qatar – sent high-level delegations headed by their presidents.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani have joined Dr Mahathir Mohamad in defence of the summit, in what analysts say is a challenge to Saudi hegemony in the Muslim world.
The Saudis and their allies are staying out of the gathering, saying it undermines the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
Asri, whose lectures have often hit out at Shia Islam and who has been accused of spreading Saudi-inspired Salafist teachings, said Sunni Muslim nations were always open to cooperation with Iran.
He said rather than asking about who had come for the KL Summit, the focus should be on countries which chose to be absent.
But he declined to comment on speculation surrounding Riyadh’s absence at the summit.
“You have to ask the organisers,” he said.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was part of the driving force of the summit, announced at the eleventh hour that he was cancelling his trip to Kuala Lumpur.
The decision was widely seen as the result of pressure from Saudi Arabia, one of the biggest aid givers for Pakistan’s tattered economy.
Saudi Arabia wields great power over Muslim governments including through lucrative aid as well as its control of the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina, which allows it to determine the annual haj quota.