Monday, April 09, 2007

Moderate Sunni Clerics Form Group in Iraq

According to, a group called the Council Of Ulama of Iraq has been formed.
Forty prominent Iraqi Sunni clerics have formed the Council of Ulama of Iraq, a group that will seek to curb the influence of al Qaeda in Iraq by issuing balanced and more moderate fatwas (religious edicts) to urge Iraqis to respect other groups and not take up arms against them, Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Ghafour al-Samarrai said April 9. Regarded as de facto mufti of Sunni Iraqis, the sheikh will head the group within the council charged with issuing the fatwas.
I'd imagine that this group should not be confused with a Muslim group of clerics by virtually the same name that was formed before the Iraqi elections and that was, at one time, considered "too radical for the [then operating] Coalition Provision Authority to deal with comfortably as an organization representing the Sunni community," according to an article in Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) from 9 February 2004. The group, at that time, did not recognize the legitimacy of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council, and it had called for resistance against them. The group had also called for Shari'a law to stand as the chief source of legislation in Iraq, and I don't know how the leadership of Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Ghafour al-Samarrai will change that - or to what extent.

According to Reuters, this group is newly formed.
"The new grouping includes some of the most illustrious Sunni scholars in the first such body to be formed since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003."
Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Ghafour al-Samarrai told Reuters:
"It's high time our clerics unify their utterances. Religious scholars have to work on teaching Muslims respect for the others ...," he said referring to radical Islamists with ideological links to al Qaeda. [..] "Scholars should speak and not have fear of anyone but Allah (God). We have to speak out and say that blood is precious. We will stand against those who have no value for human life and speak out against them openly," Samarrai added.
A report at reports on how, why, and where the group was formed.
Meanwhile, Iraqi Sunni scholars meeting in Jordan set up a body that would have the sole authority to issue fatwas, or religious edicts, while also urging an end to the US occupation of Iraq through "legal means."

The two-day meeting of the Sunni Religious Affairs Council, or Waqf - the fifth in four years - was held in Jordan because of safety concerns. It was attended by about 150 scholars.

The council was formed after the US-led war, when Iraq's ministry for religious affairs was dissolved and replaced by separate councils, or Waqfs, for the Shiite, the Sunni and other religions.

Yesterday, the gathering formed a body that would be the sole authority among Iraqi Sunnis in issuing fatwas, the scholars said in a statement. The move was an attempt to pre-empt fatwas issued by those without the required scholarly qualifications.
It seems that the council, with new members and leadership (not so different from the "radical" group by the same name in 2004), are hoping at this time that their urging for the U.S. to end the occupation of Iraq, with their decidedly anti-al Qaeda faith-based message of respect, will work to see an end to occupation since U.S. support for the war and the Bush/McCain surge is at an all-time low.