An Iranian cleric called over the weekend for a radical change in Muslim prayer practices, urging followers to no longer pray in the direction of the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
The cleric, Ahmed Alam al-Hadi, told worshipers that Muslim states such as Saudi Arabia and Iraq have been taken over by infidels, urging them to turn instead to the holy city of Mashhad, located in Iran.
"The Hijaz lands (Saudi Arabia) had fallen victim to the Wahhabis, Iraq is occupied by the infidels, and the city of Mashhad is holy, so it alone can serve as the prayer direction for Muslims," he said.
The imam noted that about 800,000 foreign visitors arrive at Mashhad annually, as well as roughly 20 million Iranians. Hence, he claimed, the city already serves as a spiritual and religious center for Muslims and had been that way for hundreds of years.
According to a report by Iran's news agency Fars, the cleric urged Iranian authorities to reinforce their interest in Mashhad and rebuild the town's infrastructure, while also transferring government institutions and universities to the city.