Association of Muslim Scholars
The Association of Muslim Scholars (Arabic: هيئة علماء المسلمين Hayat Al-Ulama Al-Muslimin) is a group of religious leaders in Iraq. It was formed on the April 14, 2003, four days after the U.S.-led invasion demolished the Ba'athist regime of Saddam Hussein, by a group of scholars who aimed to represent Sunnis in Iraq. Though not a political party, the association is considered to be politically influential. It also administers a charitable fund set up for the upkeep of religious buildings.
Prominent members include Harith Sulayman al-Dhari (Chairman), Muthanna Harith al-Dhari (Chairman's son and spokesman), Abdel-Salam al-Kubaisi, Abdel-Sattar Abdel-Jabbar, Dr. Muhammad Bashar al-Faithi, Ahmed Abdul Ghafour al-Samarrai, Mahdi Ibrahim, Abu Bashir al-Tarousi, Rached Ghannouchi and Umar Raghib.
The AMS has not joined the newly formed government because it believes the political process to be illegitimate whilst Iraq remains under occupation. The group believes that: "True democracy is impossible under occupation.”
According to the association's spokesman in 2005 Muhammad al-Kubaysi, Iraq's problems can be attributed to "the presence of a foreign power that occupies this country and refuses even the mere scheduling of the withdrawal of its forces from Iraq."  Members of the AMS met a senior US embassy official in January 2005 and asked for a timetable for US troop withdrawal. When this was refused, the group called for a boycott of the elections.
The AMS has been the group most critical of the occupation since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Sheikh Harith al-Dhari, the Chairman of the group, has said: "Iraq’s ordeal will not end unless the occupation ends. We must get rid of the occupation which is the cause of Iraq’s misery and pain. It acts as a cover and fuel for outsiders to meddle."
Rejection of terrorism
The association has been called an important force in giving the anti-occupation insurgency religious sanction in Iraq, with some of its leaders, such as Ayyash al-Kubaisi, openly endorsing the resistance as legitimate. However, they have consistently condemned all indiscriminate attacks on civilians, and have negotiated for the release of Western hostages, as well as helping to arrange aid convoys to the city of Falluja when it was under siege.
When Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi called for "a full-scale war on Shiites," at least one member of the association, Abu Bashir al-Tarousi, objected, pointing out that "although sectarian war in Iraq may have been provoked and sparked by the Shia ... killing according to sectarian affiliation is not justified by Islamic law," and Muslims should not take "justice into their own hands." He also expressed concern that the attacks would cause the legitimate Iraqi resistance to lose its credibility in the eyes of the Islamic world"
The AMS has attempted to heal sectarian divisions in Iraq, for example by organising joint Sunni-Shia prayers.
Notes and references
- BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Who's who in Iraq: Sunni groups
- Roel Meijer, 'The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq' http://www.merip.org/mer/mer237/meijer.html
- Al Jazeera English - Archive - Ams Critical Of Iraq Elections
- Al Jazeera English - Archive - Us Rejects Ams' Poll Conditions
- Aljazeera - 'US the main irritant in Iraq' http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/358F4592-A9B6-4BBC-8C3A-4FBC700C0BBC.htm?FRAMELESS=true&NRNODEGUID=%7b358F4592-A9B6-4BBC-8C3A-4FBC700C0BBC%7d
- Nasr, Vali, The Shia Revival, (Norton, 2006), p.207
- BBC - Iraq blasts mar Muslim holy month (16 Oct 2004) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3749520.stm
- Abu Bashir Tartousi, "Hawl al-Harb al-Ta'ifiya fi al-Iraq," Tajdid al-Islami, September 17, 2005 (originally on www.tajdeed.org.uk/forums/showthread.php?s=7db36a1f947c54c5884590786a626586&threadid=38120 but tajdid.org.uk was closed down after the July 2005 London bombings), quoted in Nasr, Vali, The Shia Revival, (Norton, 2006), p.209
- Aljazeera - Iraqi Sunni, Shia hold joint prayers. http://english.aljazeera.net/English/Archive/Archive?ArchiveID=21418
- Nasr, Vali, The Shia Revival, (Norton, 2006), p.207-8
- Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq (Official Website)
- Association of Muslim Clerics speaks for moderate Sunnis article at International Relations and Security Network (Switzerland)
- AMS warns Iraqi forces not to fight (Al-Jazeera)
- AMS critical of Iraq elections (Al-Jazeera)
- AMS: Iraq election lacked legitimacy (Al-Jazeera)
- AMS rejects writing constitution (Al-Jazeera)
- AMS rejects role in Iraqi politics (Al-Jazeera)
- Association of Muslim Scholars (Arabic only)