Several hundred people have been killed and dozens of Sunni mosques have been desecrated in retaliation for the reprehensible bombing of the holy Shi’ite shrine in Samarra on Wednesday, 22ndFebruary 2006. Muslims the world over cannot condone this reckless bloodshed and sacrilege. It explicitly contravenes basic Qur’anic tenets which calls for mutual tolerance as well as full respect for all places of worship, Muslim and non-Muslim. (The Holy Qur’an 2:114; 22:40).
But it is an inescapable fact that rising Muslim intolerance and hatred of all those who hold divergent theological views is now in unchecked ascendancy throughout the Islamic world because of the toxic influence of affluent Wahhabi and Salafi schools of thought.
Without any solid reference to the Qur’an, these (mainly) Saudi-funded literalists of Islam have arrogated to themselves the exclusive right to denounce all sectarian and denominational differences within the faith. This Wahhabist-Salafist cabal has elevated their opposition to Shi’ism and other sects into a primary pillar of Islam. ‘Heresy’ and ‘apostasy’, they falsely claim, must be punished by recantation, excommunication or death. For these self-righteous Saudi-backed theologians, there can be no philosophical alternatives, no variant interpretations within Islam.
It is this rigid ideological mindset that is the underlying trigger for the current sectarian strife not only in Iraq, but also in places like Pakistan where Shi’ite Muslims are routinely murdered by Sunni mobs.
This sad lack of inter-denominational pluralism and theological diversity has unfortunately also migrated to the UK where the majority Sunni population regularly shuns Shi’ites along with other non-Sunni Muslims.
It is vital that all Muslims co-exist with and accepts as believers everyone who declares their adherence to original Islamic precepts. By rejecting the bigoted Wahhabi-influenced perspectives (which fan the flames of theological fanaticism and religious intolerance), Muslims will benefit from inter-denominational harmony, instead of flinching from the mindless sectarian violence that is so rampant in Iraq, Pakistan and other Muslim lands today.
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This MECO Media Statement was published in the INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER on 17th February 2006