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Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS)

The Hayat Al-Ulama Al-Muslimin [Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS] is also known as the Muslim Scholars Association, Association of Muslim Clerics, Muslim Ulama Council and the Ulema Council. Ulema is the community of legal scholars of Islam and the Sharia. Their organization and powers vary from Muslim community to community. In most countries they are merely local power figures. The second half of the 20th century was marked by a considerable loss of authority and influence of the Ulema in most Islamic states. Many secular Arab governments attempted to break the influence of the Ulema after their rise to power. Religious institutions were nationalized and the system of waqf, religious donations, which constituted the classical source of income for the ulema, was abolished.

The Ulema Council was created on 14 April 2003, five days after the fall of Saddam Hussein. It grouped all the country's Sunni ulema. The Muslim Ulema Council is the highest Sunni authority in Iraq. Shaykh Dr Harith Sulayman al-Dari is its secretary general. The Council comprises several religious institutions that existed before the occupation of Iraq in April last year. It has many activities on the political, social, economic, and religious levels. After the occupation, the Council assumed the work of the Iraq Awqaf Ministry and took upon itself the task of looking after mosques and meeting the needs of mosque imams and preachers. The Council carries out social activities aimed at helping as much as possible those who lost their sources of income. The Council also looks after the Iraqi families of martyrs, wounded, and those captured by the US forces.

The Ulema Council had called for calm among its followers in the face of provocations from some Shias. They also accuse neighbouring Shia-dominated Iran of trying to fuel growing religious tensions in the country by reaching out to Moqtada al-Sadr. Sunni clerics in the Muslim Ulema Council became increasingly vocal and teamed up with some influential Shias to oppose the occupation.

The Muslim Scholars Association issued a statement in its weekly "Al-Basa'ir" on 14 October urging Iraqi police and military forces not to partake in operations in support of U.S.-led multinational forces. The statement issued by the Sunni organization called on these forces to disobey any orders by their superiors which go against Shari'a law and the "unity of the homeland and citizens." "The duty of the army is to protect the borders and defend values, holy places, and properties. Under shari'a law, the army is prohibited from participating in actions leading to the imposition of foreign control on the country," it added. "The Muslim Scholars Association in Iraq calls on the Iraqi police and national guard personnel to adhere to their original duties and carry out their work in compliance with the shari'a and original laws that are designed to organize their work."

On 22 October 2004 US forces in Iraq arrested a number of members of the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS) in Iraq after their participation in a conference calling for boycotting Iraqi elections.



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