Following are excerpts from interviews with Sheik Adel Al-Kalbani, Imam of the Al-Haram Mosque in Mecca, which aired on BBC Arabic on May 5, 2009 and Al-Arabiya TV on February 27, 2009.
BBC Arabic, May 5, 3009:
Interviewer: Do you support those who accuse Shiites of apostasy?
Sheik Adel Al-Kalbani: With regard to the laymen among the Shiites – this is debatable. But their religious scholars – I view them as apostates.
Interviewer: All of them?
Sheik Adel Al-Kalbani: With regard to the religious scholars, yes.
Interviewer: Are you in favor of allowing religious liberties in general?
Sheik Adel Al-Kalbani: For us, liberty has limits. Would you allow a mosque to be built in the Vatican?
Interviewer: Sheik Adel, the Vatican is the center of the papal church, while the holy places in Saudi Arabia belong to Muslims of all sects and schools.
Sheik Adel Al-Kalbani: But in the Vatican, they do not allow [a church] to be built for the Protestants.
Interviewer: Where can Christians [pray]?
Sheik Adel Al-Kalbani: Christians are allowed to pray in their homes. We have no problem with them praying where they live. But for the bells to be sounded in the land of the Prophet Muhammad – that [runs counter] to the Prophet's guidance. The Prophet's guidance, by which we act, dictates: "Drive the Jews and the Christians out of the Arabian Peninsula." Driving them out is undoubtedly the prerogative of the ruler, but they should be allowed to live here only if their presence is essential.
Interviewer: But what you are saying runs counter to the interfaith dialogue, doesn't it? On what basis does Saudi Arabia engage in interfaith dialogue with them? Is it just dialogue for the sake of dialogue? Isn't it in order for everybody to get what they are entitled to?
Sheik Adel Al-Kalbani: Yes, but within the limits of the shari'a. We are talking from the perspective of the shari'a, not from a personal perspective.
Interviewer: But don't you agree that there should be a common denominator? The limits of the shari'a is the position of the Muslims, but not of the Christians who live in Saudi Arabia, right?
Sheik Adel Al-Kalbani: [The Christian] came as a visitor. He is not a citizen. If he were a citizen... watchamacallit... a Christian citizen – maybe there would be room for debate. Maybe. But in principle, he is a visitor, a guest, who stays for some time, and then leaves. He knew these were the rules before he came here. No visitor to a country can demand that it change its rules.
Interviewer: Not to change the rules, but if you, as a Muslim, were to visit a country, wouldn't you hope there would be a mosque in which to pray, regardless of whether you are a citizen or not?
Sheik Adel Al-Kalbani: I would hope so. Undoubtedly. But Allah be praised, according to the Prophet's guidance: "The whole Earth was made a mosque and pure for me." Therefore, a Muslim can pray anywhere.
Interviewer: You just accused Shiite religious scholars – not laymen – of apostasy. Some people may ask: If this is not fanaticism, what is?
Sheik Adel Al-Kalbani: This is not fanaticism unless you mean being fanatic about my religion. In such a case, I cannot deny that I am a fanatic. My personal belief is that anyone who is aware of the status of Abu Bakr, yet curses him and draws closer to Allah by hating him, by warning against him, and by cursing him – I cannot call such a person a Muslim. With regard to the laymen, I can accept that they are either misled or ignorant, but someone who knows the status of Abu Bakr, yet accuses him of apostasy and denies that he was a companion of the Prophet – he is undoubtedly an apostate, even if he was a Sunni.
Interviewer: Do you support demands made by women in Saudi Arabia for certain rights that the women feel they lack?
Sheik Adel Al-Kalbani: Women indeed lack some rights, but not because of Islam or the rules. This is because of the implementation of these rights by their husbands or parents.
Interviewer: But don't the state and the society impose their restrictions as well?
Sheik Adel Al-Kalbani: I do not think that society imposes any restrictions on women. We have a woman who has become a deputy minister.
Interviewer: Are women capable of driving, or is this prevented by society?
Sheik Adel Al-Kalbani: If all women's rights are reduced to driving a car...
Interviewer: This is just an example, Sheik Adel.
Sheik Adel Al-Kalbani: There is no other example of women lacking rights in Saudi Arabia. There are women clerks, women doctors, and women laborers.
I had a lengthy discussion with Sheik Ibn 'Uthaymin about [Jihad]. We came to the conclusion that whoever kills himself is committing suicide, even if it is done for the sake of harming the enemy. The so-called "Jihad operations" are, in fact, suicide operations. This is my opinion, and Allah will reckon with me about it. Such a person is committing suicide. Whether or not Allah forgives him is not up to me. My ruling is that such a person is committing suicide.
Al-Arabiya TV, February 27, 2009:
Sheik Adel Al-Kalbani: I believe that my appointment to the position of imam [of the Haram Mosque] is much more significant.
Interviewer: More significant than the election of Obama?
Sheik Adel Al-Kalbani: in other positions, there may have been [black] people in the past, but with regard to this position, my appointment was a courageous decision. I believe that it is more significant than the election of Obama.
Interviewer: In what sense?
Sheik Adel Al-Kalbani: This is part of democracy, part of the world.
Interviewer: But more people elected him.
Sheik Adel Al-Kalbani: The Haram Mosque is the place of all Muslims.
Interviewer: The Haram Mosque?
Sheik Adel Al-Kalbani: Yes. This is more all-encompassing than the White House, which, as important as it may be, is restricted to the Americans.