AMMAN — His Majesty King Abdullah called on senior Sunni and Shiite clerics on Tuesday to bring an end to the growing sectarian strife in Syria and across the region, which, he warned, threatens to “destroy” the Arab and Islamic world.

In an address to dozens of senior Muslim clerics in Amman, King Abdullah urged religious leaders to curb rising sectarian violence in Syria, which, he cautioned, threatens to spill over into neighbouring states.

“You are the scholars of the Islamic world and it is your responsibility to confront the ethnic and sectarian strife in Syria and prevent its spillover into the Arab and Muslim world,” King Abdullah told a crowd of senior Muslim scholars from Iran, Turkey and elsewhere currently gathered in Amman for the 16th General Conference of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought.

“The bloodshed in Syria should be stopped and the unity of the country, and that of the rest of the Arab and Islamic nation should be preserved.”

The King reiterated Jordan’s calls for an end to ethnic and intra-religious violence, which he called a “recipe for the destruction” of the Islamic world.

“I warn again against the danger of manipulating religion for political purposes and sowing the seeds of hateful ethnic and intra-religious sectarian division,” the King added.

The King urged Muslim leaders and scholars to work in the spirit of the Amman Message, the initiative launched by the Hashemites in 2004 and endorsed by over 600 religious leaders from 84 countries, that unanimously denounces terrorism, calls for an end of apostatising and determines who is qualified to issue religious edicts.

The King urged Sunni and Shiite clerics to implement initiatives to curb growing sectarian strife throughout the region.

“I am keen to work with you to implement any initiative you suggest to serve our Ummah [nation], preserve its unity, discourage Muslims from apostatising each other, promote respect of the eight schools of Islamic jurisprudence, Sunni, Shiite — including Salafists, Sufis, Alawites and Ibadhists.”

In regards to the role of Islam in democratic systems, the King urged Islamic leaders to consider democracy as a “goal in itself, rather than mere figures and percentages”, urging for respect of minority rights and opinions.

“Majoritarian rule is not the essence of democracy, because democracy is achieved only when all share the feeling that they are truly represented,” the King said.

“This is the essence of the political consensus in Islam.”

The King’s remarks came as violence continued to take a sectarian turn in Syria, with reports of reprisal massacres by Alawite fighters loyal to Damascus against Sunni citizens and the growing role of hard-line jihadist groups.

The 16th General Conference of Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, which concludes on Wednesday, aims to address the role of democracy and human rights in Islamic thought. It has featured the participation of top clerics and Islamic scholars from 33 countries.

‘Sectarian violence recipe for destruction of Ummah’

Following are the remarks by His Majesty King Abdullah at a meeting of participants at the conference of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought on Tuesday:

In the Name of God, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful

Blessings and peace be upon our Master Mohammad, the seal of prophets and messengers,

God’s peace and blessings be upon you,

Esteemed scholars,

It is a pleasure to welcome you in Jordan. I also thank the Royal Aal al-Bayt institute for expanding the list of participants in its general conference, as a distinguished group of clerics from outside the Royal academy has been invited to attend.

The challenges surrounding us are at the core of your conference: Equal citizenship rights and justice are basic requirements when it comes to the sustainability of states and political systems.

With regards to democracy, shura and the representation process, we have to think of democracy as a goal in itself, rather than mere figures and percentages the majority uses against the minority. Majoritarian rule is not the essence of democracy, because democracy is achieved when all share the feeling that they are truly represented. This is the essence of political consensus in Islam.

In addition, this conference coincides with our repeated calls to reject and end ethnic and intra-religious sectarian violence, which entails a recipe for the destruction of the Islamic world (Ummah). I warn again against the danger of manipulating religion for political purposes and sowing the seeds of hateful ethnic and intra-religious sectarian division.

You are the scholars of the Islamic world and it is your responsibility to confront the ethnic and sectarian strife (fitna) in Syria, and prevent its spillover into the Arab and Muslim world. The bloodshed in Syria should be stopped and the unity of this country, and that of the rest of the Arab and Islamic nation should be preserved.

In fact, we hope that your deliberations during this conference would be built on the three main aspects of the Amman Message, which you all endorsed and contributed to achieving consensus over. The Amman Message defines the true Muslim, confronts apostatising others (takfir) and determines who is qualified to issue religious edicts (fatwas). The message has contributed to bringing closer the followers of the different schools of Islamic jurisprudence (madaheb) and promoted respect among them.

Your role is crucial in ensuring continued commitment to the aspects of the Amman Message. I am keen to work with you to implement any initiative you suggest to serve our Islamic world, preserve its unity, discourage Muslims from apostatising each other, promote respect among the followers of the eight schools of Islamic jurisprudence, Sunni, Shiite — including Salafists, Sufis, Alawites and Ibadhists.

I call upon you to use this conference to come up with recommendations rejecting the rhetoric of ethnic violence and intra-religious sectarian division and to confront such false thought and advance our Arab and Islamic societies.

I wish you all success from God, who says: “The Believers are but a single Brotherhood: So make peace and reconciliation between your two (contending) brothers; and fear Allah, that ye may receive Mercy.”

God’s peace and blessings be upon you.