Iraq hosts Islamic conference for promotion of tolerance
Muslim clerics from 15 countries are gathering in south Iraq Sunday for a conference that aims to renounce violence and promote religious tolerance, an Iraqi cleric said, dpa reported.
Participants include clerics from Sunni Arab countries, such as Egypt, and from Iran, the world's biggest Shiite country, as well as from countries with a mixed Sunni-Shiite population, such as Lebanon, Kuwait and Syria.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's highest Shiite religious authority, has sent a delegation to the conference, which is taking place in Basra.
Inter-Muslim relations have been marred by Sunni-Shiite 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 Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa that the conference represented an opportunity to spread a culture of coexistence and dialogue between all Muslims and non-Muslims and provide exposure to all Islamic (theological) schools around the world."
"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 Shiite and may want to send a message for Sunni-Shiite reconciliation.
Basra, 550 kilometres south of Baghdad, is also flaunting its restored law and order. Iraq's second largest city, it had been under the control of Shiite militias and criminal gangs until a government crackdown in March ended the state of lawlessness and criminality.