Mubarak calls on Islamists to attend forum

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The Independent Online
CAIRO - The Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, under pressure from Muslim clerics enraged by a United Nations conference on population, has said Muslim nations must attend to lobby against ideas that violate Islamic law. 'If we do not attend, we are the losers. If we attend, we will be able to stand firm and strong and object to every clause of the (document) that violates the Islamic sharia (code),' he said in an interview in the London-based al-Hayat newspaper yesterday.

The leading Muslim cleric, Sheikh Metwalli Shaarawi, said the UN International Conference on Population and Development, which opens in Cairo on Monday, was a new invasion against Islam. He told the Islamist As-Sha'ab newspaper and the liberal opposition al-Wafd party that Muslims, armed with the Koran and faith, would defeat it. As-Sha'ab urged followers to dedicate their Friday prayers to confront this 'satanic scheme' and oppose 'the plan of exterminating human beings and Muslims'.

'Let the Friday prayers today . . . be an occasion to pray to God as individuals and groups. Oh God defeat the enemies and their evils, thwart their plots and make the Islamic nation victorious,' it said.

Mr Mubarak, whose country faces a tide of Muslim fundamentalism, said participation of Muslim countries would make it harder for resolutions to be passed on matters they oppose. 'If there are some items in the proposed document with ambiguities, that could be interpreted in many ways, wouldn't it be in the interest of the Islamic nations to attend, oppose and stand up to any interpretation that is against religion and the Islamic sharia?' Mr Mubarak asked.

'It's a lifetime opportunity to stand on the international floor and explain what the sharia and what the Koran says and prove to the world that Muslims are not terrorists, that their religion is a religion of forgiveness, love and freedom,' he added.

Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Lebanon have announced they will stay away from the conference. Egyptian Islamic militants have warned foreigners not to attend. 'There are certain countries that have special circumstances and cannot attend . . . but I tell them 'come and explain your cause. Grasp this opportunity and make a good publicity to our religion in the whole world,' ' said Mr Mubarak, a close ally of the Saudis.

The Vatican and the Azhar in Cairo, probably the world's most influential institution of Islamic learning, have been vehemently critical of many sections of the draft document, accusing it of condoning extramarital sex, easy abortion and undermining parental authority.

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