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Baghdad: Senior Sunni scholars defy decision to close mosques - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A Sunni worshiper leaves the Sunni Abu Hanifa mosque after he finds out it is closed at Azamiya area in north Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

A Sunni worshiper leaves the Sunni Abu Hanifa mosque after he finds out it is closed at Azamiya area in north Baghdad, Iraq, on November 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Iraqi Sunni Endowment Council has decided to reopen Sunni mosques in Baghdad, defying the Iraqi Doctrine Council which ordered their closure earlier this week.

The decision to close Sunnis mosques in Baghdad came in protest against the government’s failure to protect worshipers and clerics from the escalating sectarian attacks taking place in the country.

Endowment Council acting president Sheikh Mahmoud Al-Sumaidaie said that senior Sunni scholars met with the Doctrine Council to discuss the shutdown decision.

“The meeting on Saturday agreed to open mosques,” Sumaidaie said in a statement. “We have decided to open the mosques…because closing them does not serve the public interest,” he said.

Meanwhile, Imam of Al-Kilani mosque Sheikh Mahmoud Al-Essawy told Asharq Al-Awsat that his mosque—a large Sunni mosque in Baghdad—“was not closed and its doors are open for holding prayers and sermons as normal.”

For his part, secretary general of Iraq’s Association of Sunni Scholars Mahdi Al-Sumaidaie told Asharq Al-Awsat: “There are 179 mosques in Baghdad which did not close their doors because such decisions, which are meant to exert political pressure, are completely detached from Islamic Shari’a law.”

“This [Doctrine] Council has shown that it does not represent the Sunnis and this is evidenced by the fact that no-one has complied,” he said, adding: “The mosques which have been closed under almost political orders have been opened for the same political reasons.”

Sumaidaie also revealed that “soon the formation of the Doctrine Council of Sunni scholars will be announced,” and it will “exercise its religious competence with the agreement of everyone.”

According to Sumaidaie, this new council will “include a commission of senior scholars that can be consulted on everything related to the affairs of the Sunnis in Iraq.”

Meanwhile, the United bloc led by Iraqi parliamentary speaker Osama Al-Nujaifi defended the decision to close mosques, claiming that this was neither arbitrary nor unnecessary. According to the statement, the decision came against the background of the injustice, oppression and isolation practiced against Sunnis in Iraq.

“The Doctrine Council has taken this step to protect the lives of people, imams and preachers from murder which has been directed at Sunnis in particular in Baghdad,” he said.