NEWS

British Muslims Urged Not To Join Iraq Fight, As UK Shia Leader Pleads For Calm

16/06/2014 13:23 | Updated 16 June 2014

British Muslims are expected to heed claims from the UK's top Shia cleric not to join the fight against ISIS in Iraq, after thousands of Iraqis rallied to fight the radical jihadists.

In an eight-and-a-half-minute video appeal, Shia Muslims in Britain were told that although they should give "every assistance" to the fight against ISIS, who are Sunni militants, they should not join the armed conflict themselves.

Dr Fadhil al-Milani, an imam from the Al-Khoei foundation in west London, was responding to the call from Iraqi Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani who had called on Iraqis to take up arms against ISIS, who have massacred hundreds of Shia members of the country's armed forces.

iraq

Shiite Muslim Iraqi men, who volunteered to fight against the Jihadist militants, gather around buses in Baghdad, ahead of being transported for training at Taji infantry camp

Many Shia Muslims in the UK were convinced that that had been a call for all Muslims across the world to take up arms.

Amir Taki of Ahl-ul-Bayt, a Shia London television channel, told the Guardian: "People were calling the station to ask if they should go to fight. There was so much confusion.

"Dr Milani made it clear that Ayatollah Sistani was calling on citizens of Iraq living in that country only to fight and even then, only by joining the official security forces. This was not a call for open jihad."

Shiraz Maher, Senior Research Fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (at Kings College London told HuffPost UK he expected Shias in the UK to heed al-Milani's call for them to stay at home, calling the statement "significant".

Milani said that Iraqi Shias would "struggle and resist to the last drop of blood in their veins, but when they are doing that no need for anyone from outside to come and help them, because they are capable of doing so. So I don't think that the impact of those statements [from al-Sistani] will have anything to do with people here. Shias are brothers of Sunnis."

Between 80-90% of the world's Muslims are Sunni, according to research by the Pew Forum in 2009. Those percentages are generally believed to be reflected in British demographics.

Sunnis are the majority in most Muslim countries around the world; Shias are believed to be the majority only in Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Bahrain.

Shia And Sunni Tensions In Syria Threaten To Split British Muslim Community

The Foreign Office said all but essential travel to Iraq, apart from Kurdistan, should be avoided. All travel should be avoided to the Ramadi district, Fallujah and the Nineveh, Salah-ad-Din and Diyala provinces.

Iraq in numbers

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