Iraq’s Shias and Sunnis tangle in public slanging
BAGHDAD: The interim authority’s religious director for Sunni Muslims in Iraq walked out of a tourism conference Saturday after a doctrinal row with his Shiite counterpart.
The meeting in a Baghdad hotel had been intended to help boost religious tourism and heard interim Culture Minister Mufid Al-Jazeiri, government spokesman Hamid Al-Kifai and others insist there were no religious problems in Iraq.
However, trouble erupted when Hussein Al-Shami, who heads the Shiite Muslim section of the religious affairs department, stated that the tombs of imams were “not just stones but also a source of knowledge and inspiration.” Six of the 12 imams revered by Shiites are buried in Iraq.
Al-Shami also hit out against the puritanical Wahabbi sect of Sunni Muslims that he claimed, “think tombs are nothing”, an AFP journalist reported. Adnan Al-Doulami, director for Sunnis, walked out in protest and failed to address the more than 100 people who had gathered to consider re-organising religious tourism, a major source of income in Iraq. Abdallah Hurmas, director for other religions in Iraq, then took charge of the meeting. “What I said was misinterpreted,” Al-Shami told AFP, adding with a smile, “but in the end I’m pleased with what happened because before it was impossible.”
Al-Shami returned to Iraq after 35 years in exile during which the Sunni regime of ousted president Saddam Hussein persecuted the Shiite majority. —AFP