A leading Saudi cleric has publicly stated that homosexuality should not be criminally punished, during a visit to Sweden to visit Syrian refugees.
“Even though homosexuality is considered a sin in all the Semitic holy books, it does not require any punishment in this world,” Dr Salman al-Ouda said in an interview with the Swedish Sydsvenskan newspaper, adding that homosexuals would be punished “after death.”
Homosexuality has long been a controversial topic in much of the Muslim world. LGBT people still face the death penalty in Saudi Arabia.
“Homosexuals are not deviating from Islam,” continued Ouda in the interview. “Homosexuality is a grave sin, but those who say that homosexuals deviate from Islam are the real deviators.
“By condemning homosexuals to death they are committing a graver sin than homosexuality itself.”
He added that Islam did not “encourage individuals who have same-sex attraction to show their feelings in public.”
His comments have already provoked controversy in Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Middle East.
He also condemned the abuse of the concept of Sharia law by Islamic State and al-Qaeda.
“Sharia is a very broad and wide concept and it is a concept that has been kidnapped,” he said.
Though still a controversial topic, Ouda is not the first senior Islamic figure to propose changing the legal status of homosexuality.