RELIGION

Saudi Arabia's top cleric says Iranians are 'not Muslims'

FILE - In this Tuesday, March 24, 2009 file photo, Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, the Saudi grand mufti listens to a speech of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia at the Consultative Council in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia's top cleric has said that Iranians are "not Muslims," adding fuel to a spat between the two regional powers a day after Iran's supreme leader accused the kingdom of mistreating pilgrims injured during last year's Hajj stampede. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

FILE - In this Tuesday, March 24, 2009 file photo, Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, the Saudi grand mufti listens to a speech of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia at the Consultative Council in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia's top cleric has said that Iranians are "not Muslims," adding fuel to a spat between the two regional powers a day after Iran's supreme leader accused the kingdom of mistreating pilgrims injured during last year's Hajj stampede. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)  (The Associated Press)

Saudi Arabia's top cleric heightened the Kingdom's rhetoric against Iranians, saying they are "not Muslims," a day after Iran's supreme leader said Saudi authorities had "murdered" Muslim pilgrims who were injured during last year's crush at the hajj pilgrimage.

Grand Mufti Abdulaziz Al Sheikh was quoted Tuesday by Makkah newspaper as saying that Ali Khamenei's accusations are "not surprising" because Iranians are descendants of Zoroastrians and are therefore "not Muslims." He says their "enmity to Islam, especially the Sunnis, is very old."

The majority of Iranians are Shiite Muslims, while most in Saudi Arabia are Sunni.

The 2015 hajj incident killed at least 2,426 people, according to an Associated Press count. Iran had the highest of death toll of any country, with 464 Iranian pilgrims killed.