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Iraq: Sunni and Shia clerics urge unity at Makkah meeting 

The Saudi Arabia national flag on October 5, 2018 [Chris McGrath/Getty Images]
The Saudi Arabia national flag on October 5, 2018 [Chris McGrath/Getty Images]

Sunni and Shia clerics from Iraq have met in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, to promote unity and coexistence between Islam's two main sects. The Iraqi Scholars Forum got together yesterday in the Holy City.

The meeting was organised by the Makkah-based Muslim World League (MWL). Around eighty prominent religious leaders and scholars took part in an effort to bridge the sectarian divide.

"We stated this before and will continue to do so: there is nothing between Sunnis and Shia except brotherly understanding, coexistence, co-operation and integration," the Secretary-General of the MWL, Dr Mohammed Al-Issa, said in his opening speech. "Today's event represented the true principles of Islam."

Their faith, the MWL official added later, teaches Muslims to strive for peace and reconciliation. "Islam instructs us to embrace diversity and respect each other's differences. It tells us to live in coexistence and harmony with all. And it directs us to build bridges of cooperation and understanding. The Muslim leaders and scholars gathered in the Holy City of Makkah demonstrated their commitment to promoting these values."

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A closing statement issued by the forum stipulated the opening of channels for dialogue and communication between scholars in addressing important issues. It emphasised the importance of spreading common values and mutual respect while rejecting extremism and fanaticism.

According to The National, however, the participants were not considered to be from among Iraq's most senior religious leaders. As such, they lack significant influence over political and paramilitary groups.

According to the MWL website, the meeting was the first of its kind in bringing Iraqi scholars together in Makkah. It follows a similar effort by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in 2006, when the Makkah Document was signed by Iraqi scholars with the intention of ending the spiralling sectarian violence that gripped the country following the US-led invasion and occupation from 2003 onwards.

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