DAMASCUS - The burial of Muslim scholar Sheikh Mohammad Said Ramadan al-Bouti, who is known for his support for embattled President Bashar Al-Assad, at an ancient mosque in Damascus has sparked a controversy in Syria.
"Burying Bouti next to Saladin is a deliberate insult," activist Waleed al-Akrat wrote on his Twitter page, Reuters reported.
Sheikh Bouti, 84, died Thursday in a bombing attack on a Damascus mosque that also killed at least 49 people, including his grandson.
He was buried Saturday, March 23, at the ancient Ummayyad Mosque in a site near famous Muslim Sultan Saladin.
"Oh, Saladin. Forgive us. We are sorry," wrote another activist, who goes by the alias Syria Mubasher.
Thousands of mourners attended the funeral of Sheikh Bouti, the imam of the Ummayyad Mosque.
Video from the funeral, broadcast live on state television, showed crowds of men carrying his white-draped casket into the mosque.
The Syrian opposition has denied responsibility for the killing of the leading scholar, accusing the Assad's regime of being behind the assassination.
The assassinated imam had been considered a scholarly figure with standing throughout the Muslim world.
But his support for the Assad's regime has earned him the ire of many inside and outside Syria.
Sheikh Bouti was the most senior religious leader to be killed in the conflict, which has claimed more than 70,000 lives.
More than one million people have fled Syria since the conflict started two years ago in addition to the displacement of two million others inside the country.
There is no end in sight to the conflict in Syria, which has divided world powers.
Russia and Shiite Iran support Assad, while the United States along with some European and Sunni Muslim Gulf Arab nations back a fractured opposition.
Damascus and some of its opponents have said they will consider peace talks, but no meetings have been arranged.
The assassination of the Syrian imam has drawn widespread condemnations from Muslim scholars.
We condemn the killing of prominent scholar Sheikh Bouti and any scholar because of his opinion and ijtihad, the International Union for Muslim Scholars said in a statement.
The Dublin-based body blamed the Assad's regime for the killing of the leading scholar.
Bashar is responsible for their safety, it said, calling for a United Nations investigation into the killing.
The Union, led by prominent scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, also denounced attacks on mosques in Syria.
This is a grave escalation because this is the first time that a large number of people are killed in an attack inside a mosque.
Al-Azhar, the highest seat of learning in the Sunni Muslim world, also mourned the Syrian imam.
Al-Azhar Al-Sharif mourns prominent scholar Sheikh Mohamed Said Al-Bouti and his students and strongly condemns the killing of scholars and attacks on mosques, it said in a statement.
Even inside Syria, leader of the main opposition coalition Moaz Alkhatib condemned the assassination of Sheikh Bouti.
"The killing of Doctor al-Bouti is a crime in every sense of the word," Alkhatib, a former imam of the Ummayyad Mosque, said in a statement on his Facebook page."No matter the differences that clerics in Syria may have in their view of the situation, this does not allow for the merciless killing of Muslims or the defilement of mosques."