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British Muslims Fear Sectarianism

Published: 20/06/2013 08:18:11 PM GMT
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CAIRO - Deep worries are running high in the Muslim community in Britain following the arrival of a Saudi religious leader seen fomenting sectarianism between Sunnis and Shiites. We have had a very cordial relationship for (more)

CAIRO - Deep worries are running high in the Muslim community in Britain following the arrival of a Saudi religious leader seen fomenting sectarianism between Sunnis and Shiites.

"We have had a very cordial relationship for many years between Sunni and Shiite Muslims,” Yousef Al-Khoei, director of the Al-Khoei foundation, a leading Shiite institution in Britain, told The Huffington Post UK on Thursday, June 20.

“But preachers come from abroad, and try to stir it [division] up.”

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Saudi preacher Mohammad Al-Arefe has arrived in London earlier this month.

But his arrival has raised concerns among British Muslims over his sermons seen as fomenting sentiments against Shiites.

"He [Al-Arefe] has been very vocal in trying to create these divisions. But we will work to make sure these guys don't win,” Khoei said.

Earlier this month, Arefe delivered a sermon in Egypt, in which he called on Sunni Muslims to join Jihad in Syria against President Bashar Al-Assad's regime.

But his sermon has sparked uproar and accusations of fuelling sectarian strife among Muslims.

"He has said he is on a mission, a jihad, at a lecture in Egypt. And we expect him to say this, and expect that his very presence on British land to be controversial,” Khoei said.

"Whenever this happens, the community gets together to fight it. We can't allow people to come from abroad to promote their hate message in this country.”

Last month, the umbrella Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) warned against sectarianism following marches and attack by a group of Salafis against Shiite Muslims in Britain.

The marchers, led by controversial figure Anjem Choudary, carried banners denouncing Shiites and attacked passersby.

Tension has grown between Sunnis and Shiites over Assad's bloody crackdown on anti-regime protestors in Syria, which left more than 93,000 people dead.

Shiite Iran and the Lebanese guerilla group Hizbullah are staunch supporters of Assad's regime.

Muslim Unity

Muslim leaders have urged British authorities to crack down on preachers fomenting sectarianism.

"These preachers are purely here to promote themselves and create divisions where none need to exist,” Labour MP Khalid Mahmoud, a Sunni Muslim, told The Huffington Post UK.

A Kuwaiti Shiite preacher Yasser Al-Habib was imprisoned in 2003 for inciting sectarianism after attacking key Sunni scholars.

“Neither he [Al-Arefe], or Al-Habib should be allowed to do this,” Mahmoud said.

“And the Home Office must take action on this issue. This is just another branch of hatred, and it's bizarre the Home Office doesn't listen to people who are concerned about this.

"People in the Shiite and Sunni communities do not want to be associated with these people, and the Home Office has a duty to examine this."

Al-Khoei, the Shiite leader, shares a similar opinion.

"We try to deal with it within the community, but we will have to get the police involved if it overflows,” he said.

“As a community we stand together against it, and the police can deal with the legal side."

The Saudi preacher is due to speak at Al Mutada mosque in London this weekend.

"The UK Muslim community is disappointed and deeply concerned at the arrival of Mohammad Al-Arefe,” Iraqi lecturer Mohammad Al-Hilli, a Shiite, said.

He opined that the Saudi preacher's sermons and speeches are meant to inflame sectarian tension amongst Sunni and Shiite Muslims.

"The presence of Al-Arefe in the UK will negatively impact the peaceful co-existence amongst the Muslim community, who are facing many challenges,” he said.

"He is due to speak in several mosques and centers, and will no doubt attempt to stir tension amongst the communities.

"The Muslim community strongly denounces his presence in this country and requests the Home Office to take action to ensure Al-Arefe leaves the UK and is not allowed to enter again."Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2.7 million.

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