Damascus, Asharq Al-Awsat- Iraqi Sunni and Shiite clerics met earlier this week in the Syrian capital and called for an end to the sectarian violence in their country without detriment to what they called the right to resistance through combating US occupation. Dozens of clerics who gathered at the Damascus-based Kaftaro Academy, which is close to the Syrian government, said that they have created a gathering to fight division and avoid a civil war through dialogue and fatwa-making.
Syria, which is hosting the gathering called “Iraq Clerics’ Group”, intensified its warnings in the recent period against a sectarian war in Iraq which may spread to the countries of the region and lead to further instability in the Middle East. The secretary-general of the group, Abdul Latif al-Humaym, said in the opening session of the conference: “We are working to activate dialogue and rapprochement between Muslims whatever their schools of thought, so that we can cooperate to free Iraq from the occupier after we rid ourselves of sectarian sedition,” according to a Reuters report.
Al-Humaym further said: “We will start dialogue with all the sides of Iraqi society in order to reach internal peace. We know that Iraq will only be liberated through the determination of all its components.” The leaders of the group said that they decided to hold their conference in Syria because of threats they had received in Iraq. The conference was attended by Syrian Grand Mufti Ahmad Badr al-Din Hassoun. Syrian President Bashar al-Asad said in his speech last week that one way of stopping violence in Iraq goes through holding a national reconciliation conference and resolving the conflicts between the sects. Ahmad al-Jumayri, a member of the general secretariat of the group, who hails from Ramadi Province, one of the most lethal areas in Iraq for the American forces, said: “Our action will be peaceful. Iraq’s crisis is basically political and ideological, not military.” He added: “We are working to achieve the unity of the Iraqis and to reach a unified stance to get rid of the occupier. We want a national unity government which will rehabilitate the state institutions and reform the armed forces and the security services so that Iraq is able to rely on itself.” Al-Jumayri said that his group, which is not represented in the parliament, includes 600 clerics.
Despite the fact that the conference called for the establishment of national Iraqi institutions, it did not openly call for an immediate withdrawal of the US forces. However, the participants said that resistance is a legitimate right. The member of the higher fatwa commission in Iraq, Rafi Zahir al-Rifai, said: “The enemy is beginning to make us doubt about our fundamental truths, so we started seeking fatwas emphasizing our brothers’ belonging to Islam and stressing our right to Jihad against the occupier.” Al-Rifai said: “We must all support everyone who stood up and fought the aggressor occupiers, without forgetting to distinguish between them and whoever has killed Iraqi people. Let us always remember that God ordered us to have consultations with all Muslims.”