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Back page: Top cleric says chess banned in Islam

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A video clip of Saudi Arabia's top cleric saying that the game of chess is "forbidden" in Islam because it wastes time and leads to rivalry and enmity among people has provoked heated debate, and widespread criticism, among Arabic Twitter users. The clip was shared on YouTube in December, gaining traction in recent days on social media. Some Twitter users mocked Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdelaziz Al Sheikh, saying chess is an intelligent game and that is why conservative clerics decry it. Others defended his religious advice, saying that many other Islamic scholars have also warned that the game can be addictive and cause people to lose focus from their daily prayers and remembrance of God. Saudi Arabia's influential religious establishment adheres to a strict Sunni Islamic ideology known widely as Wahhabism. Similarly, Shiite Iran's Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani previously declared that chess is religiously prohibited because it could be used for gambling, which is not permissible in Islam.