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JNN 14 Oct 2013 Baghdad : Amid the rising flames of sectarianism, occasionally there are people and
Grand Ayatullah Sistani
groups that hurl insults at other religious sects, fueling the fire and stoking the cycle of violence and hatred. In contrast, moderate Iraqi clergymen make every effort to thwart this trend and try, as much as possible, to limit its influence.
The extremist Wahabi movement that believes Shiites are apostates, the killing of whom is permissible under certain circumstances. Runs many satellite channels and websites, the most important and best known of them among Iraqis is the Safa Channel, which has been broadcasting for years, sermons and interviews that are degrading and demeaning to Shiites in the region, and Iraq in particular.
As a result, Iraq has been transformed into a raging inferno pitting extremists from both sides against each other. Usually, after each wave of abuse, tsunami-like reactions ensue from the affronted side, squelching the voices of moderation calling for calm.
Iraq’s Sunni mufti, Sheikh Rafeh al-Rifai, issued a statement calling for a general strike in the six Iraqi provinces with Sunni majorities, threatening dire consequences if such events were to re-occur. The strike did in fact take place on Oct. 10 and included the closure of schools, as well as government institutions and markets in the aforementioned provinces. Meanwhile, Facebook and other websites overflowed with violent, demeaning reactions similar to those that accompanied the instigating event.
In contrast, the highest-ranking Shiite authority in Iraq, Ayatullah Syed Ali al-Sistani, issued a fatwa condemning the abuse of Sunni sanctities, saying: “This is to be condemned and denounced, and is contrary to the instructions of Shiite Imams.” The Imam al-Khoei Foundation, which is influential among Shiite religious circles, issued a statement denouncing events and called for the respect of everyone’s sanctities.
Another Iraqi Shia source of emulation described insulting the Sahaba (Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) companions) as an act of ignorance.
Issuing a statement, grand Ayatollah Sheikh Muhammad Yaqubi said the teachings of Ahl-ul-Bayt (AS) have nothing to do with those who desecrate the sanctities of Sunni Muslims, Noon news agency reported.
He said there may be groups from both sides (Shia and Sunni) who fan the flames (of discord) and provoke such acts of ignorance.
Those who insulted the Sahaba (Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) companions) aimed to provoke Fitna (sedition) a Lebanese scholar said.
Speaking to IQNA, Ayatollah Sheikh Ali Kourani Ameli added that Shia scholars and sources of emulation have condemned the act of insulting the Sahaba.
“We, as followers of the Ahl-ul-Bayt (AS), condemn the act of a so-called Iraqi Shia activist who has insulted the Sahaba, and also condemn terrorist attacks against Iraqi people, especially Shias, by Bandar bin Sultan, head of Saudi Arabia’s secret service.”
“We also call on all Iraqi politicians to denounce this action and refuse to remain silent,” the Lebanese thinker stated.
He urged all cultural organizations and figures to work to inform people about these Fitna-provoking actions.
He also said that the Fitna-provoking actions of the Wahabis should not be ignored either, because they are the main group behind seditions in Iraq and around the World.
Ayatollah Sheikh Ali Kourani Ameli confirmed the Fatwa by grand Ayatollah Sistani against desecration of Sunni sanctities and asked the Sunni brothers to denounce the Takfiris’ crimes and the terrorist bombings that target Shia Muslims.
He urged Islamic organizations and Shia and Sunni scholars to take a united stance against the killing of Shias in terrorist bombings orchestrated by Saudi intelligence service.
Ayatollah Kourani Ameli further stressed the need for enhancing Shia-Sunni unity in Iraq and said in order for Shias and Sunnis in Iraq to live peacefully and brotherly, Saudi Arabia’s influence in Iraq should be contained.
Muqtada al-Sadr also delivered a speech denouncing and condemning the provocative act by some feeble minds, as he put it. At the same time, he decried the wave of bomb attacks, and tried to distinguish between moderate and extremist Sunnis. He said: “I salute Iraqi Sunnis who have shunned sectarianism and vile ideological extremism; who have rejected terrorism, al-Qaeda, booby-traps and acts of violence.” Before the events, another fatwa was issued in this regard by the leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, Ali Khamenei. It read: “It is forbidden to abuse our Sunni brothers’ symbols, as it is forbidden to accuse the Prophet’s wife of anything that taints her honor.”
As a result of these developments, a number of Iraqi social activists proposed the establishment of a sectarian observatory that monitors provocative acts in the country and contains their dangerous effects through legal means and the media.
As one rumor spread about a legal decision to apprehend the leader of the group that perpetrated the provocative act, another claimed that the Council of Ministers had assigned an armed detail to protect that same person because he had received threats on Facebook.
No official statement has been issued by the Iraqi government in this regard, despite the seriousness of what occurred and its dangerous ramifications, while noting that a number of laws criminalize insulting the sanctities of others and stirring sectarian tensions, and require that the government punish those who commit such acts.
Finally, in these circumstances, the Iraqi government is expected to remain impartial and perform its legal duties. This is to prevent, through the implementation of legislation, the occurrence of similar acts.
Ali Mamouri is a researcher and writer who specializes in religion. He is a former teacher in Iranian universities and seminaries in Iran and Iraq. He has published several articles related to religious affairs in the two countries and societal transformations and sectarianism in the Middle East.