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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

Apr 12th
Home arrow News Content arrow Blog arrow Blog Items arrow Intelligence arrow Sunni Saudi cleric visits Shi'ites to ease tension
Sunni Saudi cleric visits Shi'ites to ease tension PDF Print E-mail
Written by Andrew Hammond   
Thursday, 26 June 2008


RIYADH (Reuters) - A prominent Sunni Muslim Saudi cleric met with minority Shi'ite Muslim leaders this month in an attempt to soothe anger over an edict by radical sheikhs calling Shi'ism a heresy, Shi'ite sources said on Thursday.

They said Mohammed al-Nujaimi met last week with leading Shi'ite cleric Hassan al-Saffar and other religious and community leaders in the Shi'ite area of Qatif in the Eastern Province, where most of Saudi Arabia's Shi'ites live.

A group of 22 Sunni clerics issued a fatwa -- or religious edict -- this month saying Lebanon's Shi'ite Hezbollah movement was posturing against Israel to hide an anti-Sunni agenda and said Shi'ism had "infidel precepts."

"It seems that the moderate Sunni clerics want to try to minimize the effects (of the edict) and emphasize the moderate stance of Sunni religious scholars," said Jaafar al-Shaib, who attended the seminar with Nujaimi.

In another conciliatory move, prominent tribal leader Mukhlaf al-Shammary from the nearby Sunni city of Khobar -- which has no Shi'ite mosques -- took the rare step of attending a Shi'ite mosque in Qatif during Friday prayers led by Saffar.

Sunni and Shi'ite Islam are the two main branches of the faith. Saudi Arabia, which practices an austere form of Sunni Islam called Wahhabism, has a substantial Shi'ite minority of between 10 and 15 percent.

Nujaimi, head of the Islamic Jurisprudence Academy, a Saudi body grouping Sunni scholars around the world, distanced himself from the fatwa and the practice of branding Muslims 'infidels'.

"I was not one of this group of 22 ... and my line is not the same as their line," he told the gathering, as reported on Saffar's web site (www.saffar.org).

"Sunnis totally refuse branding anyone who professes the Muslim statement of faith as an infidel."

Nujaimi was not immediately available for comment.

Shammary said there was concern the fatwa could stoke social tension in the oil-rich Eastern Province and mar an interfaith dialogue initiated by Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah.

"We will not be dragged into what some are trying to drag us into," Shammary said.

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah is leading efforts to set up a dialogue between Muslims, Jews, Christians and other faiths, but Shi'ites say Saudi clerics need to sort out their issues with them first.

Saudi clerics have traditionally viewed Shi'ism as a heresy, and the increasing political power of Shi'ites in Iraq and Lebanon has alarmed both the government and clerics.

The Saudi Information Agency, a dissident group based in Washington, accused the government of trying to reduce the minority's visibility in the media.

"The Saudi government prevents the press from covering any Shi'ite events in the country," it said in a statement.

(Reporting by Andrew Hammond; Editing by Caroline Drees)
© 2008 Reuters


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