Iraq hosts Islamic conference to promote tolerance

July 13th, 2008 - 8:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Baghdad, July 13 (DPA) Muslim clerics from 15 countries are gathering in southern Iraq Sunday for a conference that aims to renounce violence and promote religious tolerance, an Iraqi cleric said. Participants include clerics from Sunni Arab countries, such as Egypt, and from Iran, the world’s biggest Shia country, as well as from countries with a mixed Sunni-Shia population, such as Lebanon, Kuwait and Syria.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s highest Shia religious authority, has sent a delegation to the conference, which is taking place in Basra.

Inter-Muslim relations have been marred by Sunni-Shia tensions which Sunni Arab countries blame on Iran’s meddling in the internal affairs of Arab states, such as Iraq and Lebanon.

Al-Sistani’s representative, Sheikh Mohamed Falak, told DPA: “Participants will seek to replace the language of violence and in-fighting (among Muslims) with a language of dialogue and unity and to strengthen Islamic values,” he said.

The holding of the conference in Basra is symbolic since the city is predominantly Shia and may want to send a message for Sunni-Shia reconciliation.

Basra, 550 km south of Baghdad, is also flaunting its restored law and order. Iraq’s second largest city, it had been under the control of Shia militias and criminal gangs until a government crackdown in March ended the state of lawlessness and criminality.

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