Arab Spring (Photo: Reuters)
Saudi Arabia's top religious official has blamed Muslim sinfulness for instability in the Middle East, where pro-democracy unrest has toppled four heads of state.
"The schism, instability, the malfunctioning of security and the breakdown of unity that Islamic countries are facing these days is a result of the sins of the public and their transgressions," Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh was quoted as saying by al-Watan newspaper.
In a Friday sermon, he accused "chaotic" people of wearing mask of "democracy and equality" for actions leading to injustice and instability within the umma, or Muslim nation.
Revolts that erupted last year have removed Arab autocrats in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen and are still raging in Syria and Bahrain. They gave voice to millions of people who suffered decades of repression but have alarmed Gulf Arab rulers.
Ties between Riyadh and Cairo were strained by the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, a close Saudi ally, and by the rising power of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, an organisation viewed with suspicion by many Gulf governments.
On Friday an Egyptian delegation visited Saudi King Abdullah to smooth a spat caused by protests at the Saudi embassy in Cairo, which had led to the recall of the Saudi ambassador. The king later ordered the envoy back Cairo and the embassy said he would return on Saturday.
Last month, the grand mufti was criticised after international media quoted him as saying all churches in the Arabian Peninsula should be destroyed, angering Christian bishops in Austria, Germany, and Russia. The comments could not be verified by Saudi officials.