Al-Jazeera Stresses Respect for Iraq’s Sistani

Al-Jazeera news channel said its policy is based on respecting religious leaders, stressing that it did not intend to offend the Shiite Muslim leader, Grand Ayatollah Sistani. “We affirm that the policy of Al-Jazeera is based on respecting religious and public figures. There was no intention at all to offend his Eminence Sistani,” the channel’s general director Wadah Khanfar said in a statement.

The indirect apology followed wide demonstrations inside and strong protests outside Iraq by the Shiite Muslims, including a ban on al-Jazeera’s activity and presence at the Iranian parliament due to the broadcast of remarks deemed insulting to Iraq’s Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Following the ban, the news network regretted Iran’s decision to ban it from entering parliament.

“We regret this decision,” said Khanfar, adding that he hoped that such measure “will not lead to a ban on us working in Iran.”

Iran on Sunday said it had banned Al-Jazeera from entering parliament after it broadcast a talk show deemed insulting to Iraq’s most revered Shiite cleric.

The ban came in response to questions posed by the host of the “Without Borders” talk show on the Arabic satellite channel questioning the legitimacy of Sistani’s leadership in Iraq.

The Iranian-born Sistani is Shiite Islam’s leading cleric and commands huge respect in Iraq and many other Muslim countries, including Iran.

The channel was involved in a similar controversy in December 2005 when Iraqi Shiites protested after a talk show guest accused Sistani of favoring the US occupation.

After that incident, Tehran summoned the ambassador of Qatar, the country where the channel is based.

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