Iraq religious leaders convene in Mecca to halt bloodshed

Iraq religious leaders convene in Mecca to halt bloodshed
October 19th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Iraq religious leaders convene in Mecca to halt bloodshed

Iraq religious leaders convene in Mecca to halt bloodshed
Media: AFP
Date: 18 October 2006

by Habib Trabelsi

DUBAI, Oct 18, 2006 (AFP) - Iraqi Shiite and Sunni religious leaders are to
convene in the Saudi holy city of Mecca Thursday to try find a way to halt
the growing bloodshed between their two communities.

The two-day meeting comes as the holy month of Ramadan, which has seen a
spike in sectarian murders, is nearing a close. It aims to set religious
standards to remind Muslims of the peaceful tenets of their faith.

However, analysts are skeptical about it having any success..

The summiteers will work from a 10-point text the "Mecca Document," drafted
by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and a copy of which was
obtained by AFP.

It contains verses from the Koran and hadiths, or sayings of Prophet

It highlights that "spilling Muslim blood is forbidden" and calls for
safeguarding the holy places of the two communities, defending the unity
and territorial integrity of Iraq and the release of "all innocent

A spokesman for the OIC said the summit was "not a conference or a forum or
a venue for negotiations."

Rather, "it is a meeting of the marjaya (Shiite religious authorities) and
Sunni ulemas (clerics) to anoint the document, which will be distributed to
Iraqis and publicized in the media."

"This initiative aims to quell religious conflict and does not profess to
reconcile the protagonists," he said.

The meeting is to be held under the auspices of the Saudi-based OIC. The
host country is ruled by a Sunni dynasty but contains a Shiite minority and
views itself susceptible to regional ripples caused by the conflict in

Anticipated attendants include two heads of two Iraqi waqfs, or
organizations for religious endowment. One of them is Sunni, the other

Sunni ulema Mahmud Samadaii and Sadreddine Kobbanji of the Supreme Council
for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), a leading Shiite party, are
also expected.

Other participants may be added to the list.

However, Iraqi academic Dhargham Abdullah al-Dabbagh, predicted the summit
would fall flat.

"Of course, the Saudis' intentions are good, but the meeting is bound to
fail. It will have no impact on the ground," said Dabbagh, a diplomat under
the regime of Saddam Hussein who nonetheless spent 16 years in jail.

"The conflict between Shiites and Sunnis is a consequence of the
occupation. The Americans have enshrined sectarianism in Iraq, which is now
in the grip of a civil war which the Iraqi government does not want to

Dabbagh, who teaches at Amsterdam's Free University but travels to Iraq
periodically, said "those who want to put an end to the violence have to
first eliminate the cause. Will the participants be able to call for the
retreat of occupation forces?"

He added that several influential Sunnis and Shiites were not participating
in the meeting, which "could not have been held without the green light
from the Americans, who are trying to get out of Iraq in an honorable way."

Jamal Abdul Jawad of Cairo's Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic
Studies, said the "Mecca meeting will not cool things down."

"Sectarian violence will persist as long as security forces and the Iraqi
army are not strong enough" to fight the insurgency.

For Abdul Jawad, a good government step would be to "integrate Sunni tribal
leaders into the political process and disarm the powerful Shiite militias.

"If sectarian violence persists in Iraq, sedition will spread to other
countries in the region, including Saudi Arabia," where Shiites make up
around 10 percent of the population.

The religious summit also comes as Muslims are preparing to mark the climax
of Ramadan, when massive crowds of pilgrims flock to Islam's holiest sites
at Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia particularly during the last 10 days of
the month.

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