In an interesting development, a group of clerics from the Salafi trend (which is the most extreme trend of Islamic factions) visited Dr. Jafari in Baghdad to congratulate him on forming the new government. Although this might be late but it's still a good step when comes from Salafi groups.
The clerics said that they clarified to Jafari that their groups are trying hard to raise the voice of reason among the extreme mosque preachers and that they're leading an educational campaign to counteract the "takfiri" ideology (takfiri means considering anyone who disagrees with your view of religion an infidel).
They said that their campaign includes convincing people that using arms against American forces is useless and illogical for the huge difference in capabilities that makes it crazy to fight a superpower.
The clerics also voiced their concerns to Jafari about the intensified raids of the security forces in their regions and that they're not feeling "safe" because the majority of Iraqi forces are comprised of She'at Iraqis and those She'at members of the forces think that everyone with a beard is a terrorist.
And in a new experience for Al-Iraqia TV, they hosted three of those clerics in a talk show. The three men were Abu Manar (the manager of the Sunni properties in Tikrit) and Abu Safwa and Abu Al-Harith from the department of Sunni properties in Mosul.
Everyone talked in the show with considerable frankness and openness and no phone calls were ignored. This in my opinion is pretty good in spite of the deep differences; transparency and addressing differences with such openness is a very good initiative and it comes instead of the dark mysterious statements that we can't verify their sources in many cases.
It was good to see that everyone tolerated criticism and most of the phone calls were trying to focus on one idea that is we are all Iraqis in the 1st place and we still have the desire to work as one hand.
The show was very interesting indeed.
Abu Manar said "people were looking at us with suspicion and a look of surprise was on their faces when the three of us were walking in Baghdad streets wearing our beards that clearly indicate that we're Salafis and it seems that people still think that everyone wearing a beard is a terrorist. This belief is in fact a result of the doings of "mufsidoon" and we disagree with such doings like killing people indiscriminately and attacking people with explosives. We're trying to tell the people that there are Salafis who are ready to work with the people against the terrorists".
Abu Manar gave an interesting example; he talked about his meeting with Abu Al-Walid who's the commander of the Wolf Brigade, the officer asked the cleric about the reason behind the relative stability of Tikrit when compared to Mosul and the people who attended the meeting answered that it's clerics like Abu Manar who continuously encourage people to stay away from violence that keep their city quiet.
The three clerics acknowledged that fighting America is like fighting the entire world and this is completely irrational; one of them said "1st of all, we're like children when compared to America's power and we must realize this fact and second and more important is that Islam prefers dialogue over fighting and we don't lack the ability to talk".
When the host asked the clerics for their opinion about Bin Ladin and Zarqawi, one of them stressed that their opinion about those two (and added Saddam to them) was clear from the beginning. He said that "It's people like those three men who destroyed the reputation of Islam" and he clarified that Saddam threw him in prison just like he did to members of the She'at Da'wa party "we were subject to oppression and we we're never with Zarqawi or Bin Ladin".
When the clerics were asked about 9/11 they said that the attacks were an example of betrayal and explained that for example when someone receives the passport of a country then he's tied to a contract with that country and Islam forbids violating such contracts even if the other party wasn't Muslim.
One of the clerics said that he wished that the government would consider allowing more Sunni people to join the Army and the police forces and he expressed his willingness to start a campaign in mosques to encourage Sunni youths to join the Army so that they would feel that the army belongs to the whole country and that the army's guns are not directed against a particular sect.
In this regard it was reported in Iraqi newspapers that 4 days ago; Sheik Ahmed Faraj was assassinated in Ramadi and that was a shock for the city. Faraj was a student of Sheik Falah Al-Ani who opposed Saddam and vanished after he publicly criticized Saddam in a mosque back in the 90s and his fate is yet unknown.
Faraj was able to gather a number of intellectuals and students in Anbar around him he continuously called for ending violence and fighting.
Faraj, although viewed American forces as forces of occupation, insisted that fighting them is not encouraged and that call for peace was enough to get him killed.
I have expected earlier that after the "Association of Muslim Scholars" got divided into two wings; an extreme wing that insists on violence and a rational wing that calls for talks to solve conflicts, I expected that clerics form the latter wing would be persecuted and probably assassinated.
These events show a decrease in the numbers and power of the "takfiri" groups and an increase in the numbers of those who favor discussions and are interested in joining the political process and I think that this meeting between this group of Salafis and the government is a positive sign regarding the future of the situation in Iraq.