Baghdad has called on Riyadh to prevent insult to Iraq's Shia clergy as protests escalate over offensive remarks hurled by a Wahhabi imam against Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
"Saudi Arabia is a land of divine revelation and prophets, a land which hosts the House of God, who prohibits us from dissension...You call on Muslims to put aside differences but from time to time voices scatter seeds of discord among Muslims," Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said in a letter to Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud.
Talabani censured Saudi Sunni figures' abusive tone against Shia Muslims in Iraq and elsewhere across the globe and warned that its "bitter" consequences "favored the enemy's policy of forging discord and animosity" in the Muslim world.
The letter, published on Tuesday, came after leading Wahhabi cleric Mohammad al-UreifiIn in his Friday sermon in Riyadh called Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani an "atheist and debauched." In his tirade, he also attacked Iraqi Shias, accusing them of conspiring with Yemen 's Houthis against Saudi Arabia with Iran 's support.
The Iraqi President described the remarks against Ayatollah Sistani as "painful and bitter," noting that the prominent cleric is a towering figure in the Shia world who symbolizes "tolerance, unity and brotherhood."
Recalling Ayatollah Sistani's "remarkable role in foiling the enemy's plot aimed at spreading sectarian violence in Iraq ," Talabani stressed that any offense to the Iraqi cleric equaled insulting the whole Iraqi nation.
He further asked the Saudi king to warn religious leaders in and outside Saudi Arabia against reinvigorating discord and divergence, and to call for decrees and sermons that encourage peace, unity and coexistence in the Muslim world.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki earlier strongly criticized the Saudi religious institutes for their tendency to launch attacks on Shia clerics and holding a hostile attitude towards Shia Muslims.
Iraq 's parliament also condemned the remarks by calling on the Saudi government to take a transparent position on the issue.
The lawmakers also called on the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Conference, the Association of Asian Parliaments and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani to condemn the remarks.