Algeria declines to grant visa to controversial Saudi cleric

Algeria declines to grant visa to controversial Saudi cleric
2 min read
07 March, 2016
The Algerian government considers Saudi salafi cleric Mohammad al-Arifi a persona non grata and has denied him a visa to visit the country for political and security reasons.
The Algerian government is keen to keep Islam moderate and shut out any radicalism [AFP]
The Algerian government has refused to grant controversial Saudi Salafi cleric Sheikh Mohammad al-Arifi a visa to visit the country, according to the Algerian Minister of Religious Affairs Mohamad Aissa, who said Arifi was not welcome in his country.

The Algerian government views Sheikh Arifi as a subversive element involved with al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate the Nusra Front and other extremist entities, the minister said at a conference in Oran on Sunday.

Sheikh Arifi had applied to take part in a religious forum in eastern Algeria, but his request was denied due to "political and security reasons," the Algerian official explained to reporters.

Mohammad al-Arifi is known for his controversial views on anything from "jihad" - including against the regime in Syria - to his hostility to Shia Muslims.

He has a large number of followers across the Arab world and is active on social media.

Despite his support for jihad in Syria, Arifi is opposed to Islamic State, which he sees as "too extreme", and is inclined to support other Islamist factions fighting against the regime there.

The military-dominated government of Algeria, which fought a protracted radical Islamic insurgency in the 1990s, a period known as the Black Decade, has maintained a policy of zero tolerance towards Salafi Islamism, especially in the wake of the Arab Spring wave of uprisings.

The number of Algerians who are fighting alongside jihadi groups in Syria and Iraq is small relative to other Arab countries.