Iraq: Muslim scholars should fight Islamist ideas
Preachers of hatred must be held accountable! (Press release)
The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) supports the repeated, urgent appeals of the Chaldean Patriarch Cardinal Louis Sako to the Iraqi central government and the other governments of the Islamic countries of the Middle East, according to which these countries should ensure that preachers of hatred are held accountable. On Tuesday, Kamal Sido, Iraq expert of the Göttingen-based human rights organization, stated: "Religious leaders who promote violence and extremist ideologies or try to breed discord must be removed from their posts." With his appeals, the head of the Chaldean Church had referred to hatemonger Sheikh Abdul Mahdi Al Sumaidaie, an Arab-Sunni grand mufti from Iraq, who had recently demanded that Muslims should not take part in Christian Christmas and New Year celebrations.
"As bomb attacks, kidnappings and intimidation of non-Muslims continue, several Muslim leaders are proclaiming ever new fatwas to promote a radical Islamic ideology," Sido emphasized. In Iraq, about 1,300 Christians have lost their lives in bomb attacks during the past 15 years, and 61 churches and thousands of houses of Christians were destroyed.
"Islamic scholars and Islamic centers must do everything to prevent radical preachers from gaining the upper hand. Not only Christians and Yazidis, but also the Muslim people are suffering from violent attacks by radical groups such as Islamic State," the human rights activist stated. "After the extensive military strike against IS, it is now crucial for the Muslim clergy to denounce radical Islamist ideologies and to spread the message of tolerance, brotherhood and togetherness. It must not be forgotten that, in the past, there have been positive experiences regarding a peaceful coexistence of Muslims and non-Muslims. Currently, however, more and more Christians are fleeing from the Middle East."
According to Sido, even the Christian population of Turkey is under increasing pressure. There are more and more attacks against Christians, especially against people who dared to convert to Christianity, and Christian priests are often accused of espionage. After Andrew Brunson, a US citizen, was sentenced to almost two years imprisonment in Turkey, Canadian cleric David Bell was asked to leave Turkey – although he has been living there for almost two decades. "The Turkish constitution contains far-reaching guarantees regarding freedom of belief, but Christians clearly don't feel welcome under the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan," Sido stated. About 0.2 percent of the 80 million inhabitants of Turkey are Chrisitans.
Header image: Aschevogel via Flickr