- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 20, 2003

IRAN

Hard-line clerics accused of misusing Islam

TEHRAN — About 116 Iranian reformists and liberal dissidents yesterday accused their hard-line opponents of clinging to power by misusing “sacred principles” and denounced their “reactionary interpretation of Islam.”

Calling for extensive reforms and freedoms, they warned that otherwise, the clerical regime would face the same fate as Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Afghanistan’s Taliban.

“The instrumental use of sacred religious principles in order to keep power has dealt a hard blow to the confidence of the people,” they said in an open letter published in newspapers.

Iran, a Shi’ite-majority country, is a theocracy, and its democratic political system is dominated by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and other clerics. “Denying legal rights and freedom cannot have a religious justification,” the authors said.

EGYPT

Sheik of al-Azhar rejects suicide attacks

CAIRO — The government-appointed sheik of al-Azhar, the world’s leading Sunni Muslim authority, yesterday condemned a wave of suicide attacks in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and Casablanca, Morocco, as contrary to the teachings of Islam.

These attacks are “contrary to Islam and those who carry them out cannot be considered Muslims,” Sheik Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi said in remarks published by Egypt’s state-run Middle East News Agency. He stressed that “all monotheistic religions call for love, peace and security,” but there exist “people who exploit religion, whether Muslims, Christians or Jews.”

He said in early April, after the start of the U.S. and British invasion of Iraq, that suicide attacks against coalition troops were permitted by Islam.

But al-Azhar strongly condemned the September 11 attacks on the United States, and has since repeated that jihad (holy war) is only permitted against fighting forces.

Weekly notes …

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Greece and Greek-controlled Cyprus yesterday to make a good-will gesture to help reach a solution to the island’s decades-old division. His call came days after Ankara announced that as of tomorrow, it would scrap a 40-year ban on Greek Cypriots visiting Turkey. Turkish Cypriot authorities last month also lifted restrictions on travel between the island’s Greek and Turkish sectors. … Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh urged his new Cabinet on Monday to work to eradicate poverty and unemployment, and to encourage domestic investment in Yemen, considered one of the world’s poorest countries. “The fight against poverty and the elimination of unemployment are [the Cabinets] priorities,” Mr. Saleh told the government that was named on Saturday and has 15 new ministers.

From wire dispatches and staff reports


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