Southland Muslims Promote Code of Unity

April 23, 2007

Author: Rebecca Trounson

Source: Los Angeles Times,1,3425510.story

As the conflict deepens between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in Iraq, Muslim leaders in Southern California have launched what they hope will be a nationwide movement to promote unity among different branches of the faith in this country and help prevent acts of violence here.

In a ceremony that may be repeated as early as today in Detroit and later in other U.S. cities, a number of leading Southern California Muslims, including prominent Shiite and Sunni clerics, recently signed a "code of honor" that offers strategies for overcoming and avoiding divisions within the community.

Among the code's guidelines are banning the practice of takfir, judging other Muslims as nonbelievers, and forbidding hateful speech about the beliefs and revered figures of other branches of Islam.

"When it comes to interfaith efforts, we are brilliant," said Moustafa Al-Qazwini, an influential Shiite cleric who played host to the March 31 signing ceremony at his Costa Mesa mosque. "But when it comes to intra-Muslim work, we don't do enough."

Sunnis and Shiites vary little in their core beliefs but disagree on the question of the rightful successor to the prophet Muhammad.

In many countries, class divisions also arise, with Sunnis often in positions of power and Shiites in the lower economic and social groups.