Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Muslim leaders to address sectarianism at capital forum

The Muslim world's parliamentary chiefs will defend the rights of Christian minorities and denounce sectarianism at a summit in Abu Dhabi next week.

ABU DHABI // The chiefs of Muslim parliaments will gather in the capital early next week as the Islamic world grapples with a rise in sectarian tension and political turmoil, and formulates how it should respond.

Parliamentary leaders will defend the rights of Christian minorities in the Muslim world, a call that has gained added urgency after a recent attack on a church in Alexandria that claimed the lives of 21 Coptic Christians and injured scores more.

"We have to treat everyone as regular citizens with rights, and the right to choose their religion without interference," said Abdulaziz al Ghurair, the speaker of the Federal National Council.

"We are against terrorism," he said, adding that Muslim countries must also reject "sectarianism in conflicts between citizens".

Al Qa'eda has pledged to attack Christian communities throughout the Middle East.

Muslim leaders from 51 countries will gather for the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in Abu Dhabi from Sunday to Wednesday, along with international observers from the Arab League and International Parliamentary Union. The speakers of parliament are expected to approve the creation of a committee to resolve disputes between Muslim nations, a measure that Iran has previously opposed.

The OIC has identified 242 minor and major conflicts between Muslim countries, one of which is the Islamic Republic's occupation of three UAE islands.

Iran has repeatedly rejected calls for international arbitration or direct negotiations on the matter.

One proposal under consideration is the establishment of an Islamic court to arbitrate between Muslim nations.

The speakers will also identify ways to press for Muslim opposition to measures that lead to greater Israeli influence in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as their future capital.

"[We should] go to every continent to gather support and our decisions must be heard everywhere," said Mr al Ghurair.

Parliamentary diplomacy could play a role in promoting Palestinian interests by making the position of Muslims around the world known to an international audience, he said, including the Palestinian Authority's efforts to seek international recognition without negotiating with Israel.

Israel's failure to extend a partial freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank, in addition to East Jerusalem, led to the collapse of direct negotiations last year.

Muslim parliaments also want to present a unified front on Sudan. Mr al Ghurair said the intention was not to try to influence the outcome of the referendum, which is taking place this week, but to promote a "calm", regardless of whether the south secedes.

But some Islamic scholars are sceptical that the high-level meetings will result in any tangible benefits for the Muslim world.

"The Islamic world is at its weakest point in history, said Dr Ahmed al Kubaisi, a professor of Sharia studies at UAE University. "It is an easy target for all governments in the world because everyone has a benefit in the Islamic world, and they are taking it."

He said the Muslim world did not really have the power to make any changes in their own affairs. But at least leaders could "diagnose" some of the problems.

Dr al Kubaisi said sectarian tensions should be discussed more openly.

"Decades ago in countries like Egypt, Morocco and Yemen, Christians, Jews and Muslims lived in peace and worked with one another harmoniously," said Dr Khaled AbdelAlim, an Islamic preacher who has his own Islamic television show.

"So what happened now?"



Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 The Doha-based Youssef Al Qaradawi speaks to the crowd as he leads Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in February, 2011. The outspoken pro-Muslim Brotherhood imam has been critical of the UAE’s policies toward Islamist groups, adding to friction between Qatar and other GCC states. Khalil Hamra / AP Photo

Brotherhood imam skips Doha sermon, but more needed for GCC to reconcile

That Youssef Al Qaradawi did not speak raises hopes that the spat involving Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might be slowly moving towards a resolution.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 An Afghan election commission worker carries a ballot box at a vote counting centre in Jalalabad on April 6. A roadside bomb hit a truck carrying full ballot boxes in northern Afghanistan, killing three people a day after the country voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Eight boxes of votes were destroyed in the blast, which came as the three leading candidates voiced concerns about possible fraud. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP Photo

Two pressing questions for Afghanistan’s future president

Once in office, the next Afghan president must move fast to address important questions that will decide the immediate future of the country.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Supporters of Turkey's ruling AKP cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara on March 30. Adem Altan/ AFP Photo

Erdogan critic fears retaliation if he returns to Turkey

Emre Uslu is a staunch critic of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, with a mass crackdown on opposition expected, he is unsure when he can return home.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National