Iraqi parties blasted al Azhar - Islam’s most revered authority - at the backdrop of its Fatwa (religious ruling) banning Arab and Islamic countries from dealing with the Iraqi Governing Council, calling the US- backed body illegitimate. The Iraqi parties have also rejected the decree from the Arab-world’s highest-ranking Sunni Muslim institution, describing it as a “shame”. They suggested that it would be more useful for al Azhar not to indulge in political issues that concerned Iraqis.
On August 19, al Azhar issued a Fatwa banning Arab and Islamic countries from dealing with Iraq’s interim Governing Council, saying it lacks religious and political legitimacy. It described the council as been imposed on the Iraqis by the will of the occupation, and does not conform to Islam’s established principle of Shura (counsel).
But Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, the grand sheikh of al-Azhar mosque and university, said on Wednesday the committee that issued that fatwa had no right to make such judgements and would be brought to account. Tantawi told Reuters the clerics would be called to task for issuing the unauthorised ruling.
Last July, the US-backed CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority) formed the interim 25 member Iraqi Governing Council, which is to be Iraq’s official transitional authority following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
The Iraqi Wifaq party criticized al Azhar’s fatwa, reiterating that only the Iraqi people have the right to choose their political destinity. “Only the Iraqi people have the right to accept or reject the governing council… neither al Azhar or anyone else for that matter have the right to interfere in internal Iraqi issues,” said Ibrahim al Janabi - Wifaq’s secretary general.
Speaking to Al Bawaba via telephone, in what seemed to be a jab at Egypt, Janabi said, “al Azhar is being pressed by certain powers… we are sorry to hear of such political Fatwas from the highest ranking Sunni institution in the Arab world – it [the Fatwa] has nothing to do with religion and it is shameful and completely rejected.”
“Doesn’t Israel have an embassy in Cairo? Why doesn’t al Azhar issue a Fatwa banning the presence of the embassy on Egyptian soil? Is what they [Egyptians] do legitimate and what we do not?” asked Janabi, suggesting that al Azhar focus on religious matters rather than political ones.
For its part, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq expressed its regret at the fatwa, which they described as inappropriate. “The [al Azhar] Fatwa is irrelevant. We are sorry to see the governing council - which represents all the Iraqi people and its parties - not being able to secure recognition amongst the Arabs, while Arab countries have ongoing ties with Israel,” Hamed al Bayati, the party’s spokesperson, told Al Bawaba via telephone from his office in London.
He added, “It is very regrettable to hear such a Fatwa coming from al Azhar…the Arab countries have already started dealing with the governing council without recognizing it. They are dealing with the situation as it is,” said Bayati, referring to the warm welcome the council’s delegation received in the Arab countries it recently visited.
The temporary head of the governing council, Ibrahim al Ja’afari, expressed his satisfaction with the result of his Arab tour that included seven countries and a visit to the Arab League’s headquarters in Cairo. The tour included visits to the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The delegation was supposed to visit Yemen as well, but was postponed at the last minute. He described the success of the visit as an implied - yet unofficial - recognition of Iraq’s interim Governing Council. The Arab league has refused to recognize the Iraqi body officially.