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Shiite cleric slams killing of non-Muslims

June 23, 2004 at 7:37 AM

BEIRUT, Lebanon, June 23 (UPI) -- A leading Lebanese Shiite religious authority condemned Wednesday the killing of foreigners in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, saying it tarnishes Islam.

"Kidnapping and killing the foreigners living peacefully in Arab and Muslim countries like it is happening in Saudi Arabia and Iraq should be condemned," said Sheik Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, regarded as Hezbollah's spiritual mentor.

"The acts committed by the deviating and perverse elements are tarnishing the image of Islam and distracting attention from key causes like liberation from Israeli occupation."

Al-Qaida operatives in Saudi Arabia beheaded U.S. hostage Paul Johnson last week after Saudi authorities rejected demands to liberate detained terrorists and Iraqi captors executed a South Korean national Tuesday to protest the presence of South Korean troops in Iraq.

"Islam is being misinterpreted and manipulated to encourage violence and terrorism which is banned by Islam and to kill non-Muslims living peacefully and who have no relation with what their governments are doing," he said.

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