Sheikh Adel ben Salem Al-Kalbani, 52, is the first black Imam of «Al-Masjid Al-Haram», Mecca’s Grand Mosque where 2 million Muslims go for pilgrimage every year. He does not mind being compared to Barak Obama. «No doubt, Barak Obama’s victory in the US Presidential election and his inauguration were two exceptional events” said recently Sheikh Kalbani to the London-based Saudi daily Al-Hayat.
Black stone and Kaaba… rather than White House
Each time he talks publicly, Sheikh Kalbani praises King Abdullah “the Custodian of the two Holy Mosques” in Mecca and in Medina. He describes the king’s decision to appoint him as “courageous” because when honoring him with this Grand position, the king did not take into account such “handicaps as the level of education or the colour of the skin.” Sheikh Kalbani admits that he has “no academic degree”. Yet he has a very harmonious voice and a special skill in reciting the Koran. Thanks to his voice, he was nicknamed the “dark nightingale” by the uncountable followers he has enchanted for over twenty five years, since he became Imam, in the various mosques where he worked, including that of King Khalid Bin Abdul-Aziz in Riyadh. During his interview on “Al-Arabiya”, Sheikh Kalbani said that he had forbidden many young Saudi men to go to Afghanistan for “Jihad” (holy war), following the 9/11 attacks, in which 15 out of 19 attackers were Saudi citizens. In 2003, Saudi authorities, after being criticized by the West for their reluctance to struggle against religious fundamentalism, had dismissed hundreds of imams for their intolerant preaches. “By choosing Obama, America showed that anyone can reach any position, provided they have the required competence … regardless of their religion, origins or colour of skin”, added “the dark nightingale” who likes to compare himself to the “young handsome and tanned” president, according to the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s description.“I don’t mind at all if my appointment as imam of the Grand Mosque is compared to the election of Obama, as first coloured president,” he stressed.