Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abdullah went to Texas to meet with President George W. Bush. One issue on the agenda is the need for a peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. At a recent meeting of the Arab League, Crown Prince Abdullah proposed a vision of normalization with Israel in the context of a negotiated peace.

One of the obstacles to peace is continuing hostility toward Israel. On April 19th, a prominent Saudi imam said in a sermon broadcast on radio and television that Arabs "must say farewell to peace initiatives" with the Jewish state. Even worse, the sermon by Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais [shake ahb-d’l-RAHKH-mahn ah-soo-DAYSS] was filled with anti-Semitic vitriol.

Preaching at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Islam’s holiest shrine, Sheikh Sudais called Jews "the scum of humanity. . .the rats of the world. . .prophet killers. . .pigs and monkeys." He prayed to God to "terminate" the Jews.

In addition to spewing such villainous bile, Sheikh Sudais also claimed falsely that the Israelis "aspire to tear down the al-Aqsa mosque [in Jerusalem] to build their so-called temple on its ruins." In fact, the Israeli government has never expressed any interest in tearing down the mosque, which is built near the ruins of a Jewish temple. On the contrary, Israel respects Muslim holy sites and has pledged to keep them accessible to all.

Why would a prominent Muslim cleric profane Mecca’s Grand Mosque by preaching such hateful lies? How does this promote peace between Muslims and Jews, Arabs and Israelis?

The words of Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais on April 19th contrast sharply with a sermon he preached after the September 11th suicide attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. "It would be a grave calamity," he said on September 28th, "when the followers of this phenomenon [terrorism] use religion as a camouflage, because true Islam stands innocent from all that. Its teachings stand aloof from people who believe in violence as a course of action and. . .bloodshed as a way of reform."

Sheikh Sudais was right in September when he spoke out against those who commit terrorist acts in the name of religion. But he is profoundly wrong now when he uses a religious forum to incite the very hatred that leads to terrorism.