Prominent Saudi preacher Mohamed al-Arifi backtracked on Saturday on controversial statements he made this week on Qatar's Al Jazeera television in which he defended slain al-Qaeda leader Oussama Bin Laden.
In a statement posted on his Twitter account, Arifi, a professor at King Saudi University, cited a saying by Omar bin Khattab, the second Caliph of Islam, saying that a man can review his mind from previously taken decisions and ‘return to righteousness.’ Arifi made the connection of his tweet to his previous saying on al-Qaeda.
In his television interview with Al Jazeera, Arifi said Osama Bin Laden (who he referred to as "Sheikh Oussama" and prayed for his soul to be blessed) was a victim of wide-level character assassination.
He also said that some people attribute to al-Qaeda many opinions and thoughts which the group does not hold.
"These beliefs in fact are not correct. Al-Qaeda members do not tolerate accusing other Muslims of apostasy and they do not tolerate bloodshed. I am not part of al-Qaeda and I do not adopt their thinking, but Allah says: ‘And when you testify, be just,’” Arifi said.
Further to his tweet backtracking those statements, Arifi published a new video online saying his previous opinion about al-Qaeda was based on “false” information he obtained in interviews with some al-Qaeda members and experts.
“What I am saying now overwrites what I said before and I backtrack on it,” Sheikh Arifi said, answering question by a caller on the phone during a television program.
“The return to righteousness is better than holding on to what is wrong,” Arifi said, adding: “I ask Allah for forgiveness and I repent to him.”
His statements on Al Jazeera prompted wide condemnation on social networking web sites , with many people accusing him of encouraging terrorism.
In those controversial statements Arifi said that from his meeting with al-Qaeda members who went through the kingdom’s terrorist rehabilitation program, he discovered that they did not hold opinions and thoughts often attributed to al-Qaeda.
“Even al-Qaeda leader Sheikh Oussama Bin Laden, may his soul rest in peace, did not adopt many of the thoughts that are attributed to him today,” Arfif explained.
To read more about his previous statement click here.