Authorities in Saudi Arabia fired 3,500 Islamic preachers for failing to dilute their extremist ideology, according to the US State Department.
The report said that the imams had been dismissed by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Endowments between 2003 and 2011 after a central committee could not dissuade them to change their views, Arab News reports.
No preachers were sacked during 2012, although the ministry said it continues to monitor online forums and study materials used by imams in attempts to prevent teaching of extremist ideas.
“Some wrong practices based on incorrect ideas are... among the reasons cited for their sacking,” Tawfiq Al-Sudairi, undersecretary of the ministry, was quoted as saying.
In recent years some of Saudi Arabia’s top clerics have come in for international criticism for espousing extremist doctrines. In March 2012, Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah said it is “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region”.
Saudi Arabia’s top cleric made the comment in view of an age-old rule that only Islam can be practiced in the region.
The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia is the highest official of religious law in the Sunni Muslim kingdom. He is also the head of the Supreme Council of Ulema (Islamic scholars) and of the Standing Committee for Scientific Research and Issuing of Fatwas.