Iraq News

Iraqi religious authorities maintain neutrality amid Iran crisis

By Alaa Hussain in Baghdad


An Iraqi Shia cleric delivers the Friday sermon in Karbala. [Photo courtesy of the Imam Hussein Holy Shrine Facebook page]

Iraq’s most prominent Shia clerics have been distancing themselves from Iran during its current crisis with the international community by not calling on followers to support the Islamic Republic, religious officials said.

Top clerics, including Ali al-Sistani, have refrained from calling on their followers to support Iran in its current standoff with the US, they said, noting that religious authorities in Iraq maintain a policy of neutrality.

Al-Sistani’s position, communicated via Friday sermons, calls for non intervention in the internal affairs of other countries, said Sheikh Alaa al-Rubaie, a member of the Relief Committee at al-Sistani’s office.

Al-Sistani stresses in his sermons that he wants to distance Iraq from regional crises, al-Rubaie told Diyaruna.

The position of neutrality and non-alignment is practiced by both Shia and Sunni authorities in Iraq, Dar al-Ifta in Iraq spokesman Amer al-Bayati told Diyaruna.

"Moderate religious rhetoric plays a significant role in reforming society and changing deviant ideas that hope to take the country down a difficult path," he said.

The moderate rhetoric adopted by the religious authority in Najaf and the Sunni establishment, represented by Sunni mufti of Iraq Sheikh Mahdi al-Sumaidie, "will prevent untold misery as a result of war and internal instability", he added.

Al-Bayati called on Iraqis to follow the guidance of religious authorities "rather than those who want to thrust Iraqi youth into the midst of confrontations that support external parties".

Religious neutrality

Religious authorities in Iraq are behaving wisely regarding tensions with Iran, by calling for restraint rather than succumbing to religious fervour that could destabilize Iraq, security analyst Ghanim al-Aifan told Diyaruna.

The political stance of senior religious authorities in Iraq "always has been to place the interests of Iraq above all else", he said, noting that this has been especially evident since the rise of tensions with Iran.

The religious establishment in Najaf has a particular religious vision that takes into account the political reality in the country, he said.

Clerics believe Iraq will be subjected to grave danger if it takes side in foreign conflicts, he said, which is why they are being neutral regarding US-Iran tensions.

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