Iraqi clerics forced to tone down sermons

An Iraqi Sunni Muslim cleric, who last week urged worshippers to wage jihad, or holy war, against US occupation forces, has refrained from mentioning political issues during his Friday sermon.

    Iraqi anger growing after US 
    occupation troops stormed
    a mosque in Baghdad

    Sheikh Muayyed al-Aazami spoke only about the importance of prayer for Muslims and stressed the need to be magnanimous.


    The toned down rhetoric followed a decision this week by the US-led administration in Iraq to outlaw “incitement to violence” and warned that anyone who ignored the ban would be immediately detained.


    Sheikh Aazami refused to answer when asked by AFP why he had moderated his tone, saying he was tired.


    During his sermon at the Abu Hanifa mosque in Baghdad last week, Sheikh Aazami called on Muslims to recover their usurped rights and called on US occupation forces to speed up their withdrawal from Iraq.


    The ban covered "pronouncements and material" that "incite violence against any individual or group, including racial, ethnic or religious groups and women ... civil disorder, rioting or damage to property ... violence against coalition forces" or that "advocates the return to power" of the deposed Baath Party.


    Anti-US protest


    Some 1,500 people protested after Muslim weekly prayers in Baghdad Friday against the entry of US occupation soldiers into a Sunni mosque overnight.


    "Don't violate mosques," said one of the banners raised by the protesters, who were led by the prayer leaders, or imams, of the capital's three major mosques.


    One protester said the troops entered Abu Hodeifa bin al-Yaman mosque around midnight Thursday and seized the equivalent of US$90.


    "It was a deliberate violation of Iraq's holy places and we are here to protest against this provocation," Ahmad al-Azawi, who lives in the mosque's neighbourhood in southeast Baghdad said.


    "The Americans entered the mosque under the pretext of searching for weapons, but in reality, they were trying to provoke us," Zaki al-Rawi said.


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