Friday, July 08, 2005

Sunni Clerics Plan Edict On Greater Political Role

Sunni Clerics Plan Edict On Greater Political Role:
Followers in Iraq Will Be Told to Join Process, Vote

By Andy Mosher and Omar Fekeiki
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, July 5, 2005; Page A01

BAGHDAD, July 4 -- Several senior clerics of Iraq's disaffected Sunni Muslim minority will soon issue a decree calling on followers of the faith to vote in upcoming elections and help write a new constitution, a prominent Sunni leader said Monday. The step could draw Sunni Arabs away from the insurgency and into a political process they have steadfastly rejected.

Adnan Dulaimi, who heads the Sunni Endowment, the government agency responsible for Sunni religious affairs, said the framers of the religious edict, or fatwa , would seek the support of other groups in the fractious Sunni community before issuing it.

Adnan Dulaimi said Sunni clerics would seek broad support before issuing the religious edict, or fatwa.

The push for the fatwa, together with the National Assembly's formal approval Monday of the addition of 15 Sunnis to the committee writing a draft constitution, suggested that the slow and often contentious efforts to bring Sunni Arabs into the political sphere were beginning to bear fruit.

The Shiite Muslim-led government of Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari has encouraged Sunni Arabs to embrace politics and to abandon the two-year-old insurgency dominated by Sunnis and foreign fighters.

Another pivotal Sunni group, the Iraqi Islamic Party, immediately voiced support for the proposal. Noting that the party was among the first Sunni organizations to encourage voting in the next election, Tariq Hashimi, the party's secretary general, said that Sunnis' respect for religious leadership ensured that "if a fatwa is issued to urge people to participate, this will help to improve the legal and political situation of the elections and the constitution. It will also help to end the confusion in the Iraqi community: People are confused whether the constitution and elections are legitimate or not."

Subhi Nawzen Tawfik, a political science professor at the University of Baghdad's International Studies Center, called the initiative "a very important development."

In addition to redressing the power imbalance brought on by the Sunnis' "strategic mistake" of staying away from the January election, Tawfik said the edict would appeal to Sunni insurgents who took up arms because they believed the current political system was imposed on Iraq by foreign powers."

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