Sermons on Syria fan Mideast sectarian flames

June 10, 2013

(A Shi’ite delivers a sermon to worshippers during Friday prayers at the Kadhamiya shrine in Baghdad November 16, 2007. REUTERS/Mohammed Ameen )

Sunni Muslim preachers condemned Iran and its “Satanic” Shi’ite allies in Friday sermons, after a battle in Syria that has inflamed sectarian rhetoric which risks spreading violence around the Middle East.

In Tehran, the non-Arab power behind the Shi’ite strand of Islam followed by a minority of Muslims, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for restraint and unity, blaming Western powers and Israel for fomenting the sectarian strife.

But across the Gulf in Saudi Arabia, a bastion of hardline Sunni theology and opposition to Iran, a senior cleric aligned with the U.S.-allied government spoke of a Shi’ite “plot against Islam” that was made newly apparent in the assault by Lebanese Hezbollah fighters on Sunni rebels in the Syrian town of Qusair.

In Qatar, the International Association of Muslim Scholars, a Sunni body headed by influential cleric Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, condemned the “Qusair massacre” and called for “a day of rage” in support of the Syrian people next Friday, according to a statement posted online.

The two-year-old uprising against Iranian-backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose Alawite minority is an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam, has taken an ever more poisonously sectarian tone as the number of dead and displaced has soared, increasing risks of inflaming the broader Sunni-Shi’ite confrontation.

Read the full story by Mariam Karouny and Alastair Macdonald here.

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