VIENNA (dpa) – High-ranking Muslim clerics on Wednesday denounced the atrocities that the jihadist Islamic State and other groups have been committing in the name of religion in Iraq and Syria.
“Together we repudiate all exploitation of religion in political conflict and the usurpation of religious symbols by extremists used as a means for segregation and a cause for injustice and oppression,” the leaders said in a joint declaration at a Vienna conference.
Those who backed the declaration included the top Muslim legal authorities from Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, Grand Muftis Sheikh Shawkiqi Ibrahim Alam, Sheikh Abdul al-Karim al-Khasawneh and Sheikh Abd al-Latif Derian.
“We explicitly and completely condemn the serious violation of human rights in Iraq and Syria,” said the clerics, who included Orthodox Christian patriarchs.
They said that “unchecked mass murder and bloody conflict are correctly categorized as crimes against humanity,” echoing the assessment of UN human rights experts.
The clerics especially denounced jihadists for persecuting religious minorities such as Christians and Yezidis.
The conference was organized by the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID), an international organization in Vienna that is largely financed by Saudi Arabia.
The meeting was announced shortly after Austria’s government said last month that it would review its support of KAICIID, amid media accusations that the centre has produced little output and is essentially a public relations tool of the Saudi leadership.
Although the Islamic State group has mainly financed itself with oil sales, the group came into being with the help of donations from the Gulf. Countries including Qatar and Kuwait have been accused of facilitating the flow of finances and fighters into the group’s war machine.