2013-07-16 By Mohammed al-Qaisi in Basra

Sunni and Shia clerics agreed at a meeting in Basra last Monday (July 8th) to adopt moderate discourse that renounces sectarianism, violence and terrorism.RELATED ARTICLES

The meeting, which brought together clerics and religious bodies representing both sects from around the country, was the first of its kind in Iraq, said Sheikh Khaled al-Mulla, head of the Iraqi cabinet's scholars committee.
The clerics arrived at a number of points of agreement which can be opened up for discussion at mosques and during daily Ramadan preaching sessions, he said.
"Renouncing terrorism, violence and hatred, acknowledging the sanctity of Iraqi blood, compassion, unity and the acceptance of the others from both sects will serve as base points for the clerics' sermons in Iraq," he said.
The agreement, made at the start of Ramadan, will usher in "a new phase between us and a declaration of our rejection of fanaticism, extremism and the first and foremost evil in Iraq, which is terrorism," said Sunni Endowment office in Iraq head Sheikh Abdul Ghafoor al-Samarrae.

The agreement calls for free, joint iftars to be organised, to which people from both communities would be invited in order to reinforce a spirit of patriotism and clear their hearts of grudges stoked by terrorist strikes that have attempted to sow discord between Sunnis and Shia, al-Samarrae said.
Sermons and lectures will be held in conjunction with the banquets, providing an opportunity for people to learn more about each other, while Ramadan-inspired games also would bring people together, he said.
Shia Endowment office head Sheikh Saleh al-Haidari welcomed the agreement, saying his office encouraged the exchange of visits between Sunni and Shia houses of worship to conduct prayers.
Such visits would help "promote the spirit of accord and peace, and would foil al-Qaeda's attempts to incite sedition between the two communities", he said.

"Iraq is the land of all sects, not the sectarians, and we hope that we will emerge from the rituals of Ramadan as a people more united, reconciled and more aware of the schemes with which terrorist groups are trying to undermine the internal fabric of Iraqis in order to control them," al-Haidari said.
Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq described the agreement as an expression of what Iraqis are truly made of during times of trial.
"It is obvious to everyone that our country is coming under a vicious terrorist assault and our soldiers in the field are embroiled in a struggle fighting it," he said.
"It is a matter of fact that clerics would honour their duty by urging people to fight terror, seek unity and renounce the crisis," he said. "There is no longer room to listen to the extremists, who are justifying the terrorists' deeds."
The government realises people are aware of attempts to sow discord, he added, offering as an example the recent "spontaneous, grassroots boycott" of a number of clerics "because of their overcharged and extremist sermons and statements".
"This signals a good beginning on the path to get rid of extremist habits and ideologies," he said.


Iraqi Shia and Sunni clerics will hold iftars, such as this one in Najaf in 2009, to reinforce a message of patriotism and sectarian unity. [Qassem Zein/AFP]