Iran hosted a congress for “Assessing Risk of Extremist Currents by Islamic Scholars” on Sunday November 23 in the Holy City of Qom . The event engaged 4000 security officers who were deployed in all the streets leading to the event venue.

Imam Kazem Seminary in Qom hosted the congress guests and the program. Ayatollah Nasser Makkarem Shirazi and Jafar Sobhani and other senior clergy members of Qom had organized the event to initiate an examination of extremism in the region and ways of confronting it. The efforts called for union amongst Muslim leaders to overcome the extremist movement represented by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Top political and religious leaders from all over the world of Islam such as the Friday Mass Imam of New York, representative of the Secretary General of Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Egyptian religious scholar Tajeddin Helali gave speeches on the first day.

Mohammadi Golpayegani, head of Iranian Supreme Leader’s office, Ahmad Jannati head of Iran’s Guardian Council, Hosseini Boushehri, head of Qom Seminaries, Mowlavi Abdolhamid, Friday Mass leaders of Zahedan Sunnis and Mowlavi Abdolarahman Sarbazi, Friday Mass leader of Chabahar were also present in the opening ceremonies.

According to ISNA scholars from different Islamic sects and 83 different countries attended the congress in Qom. Ebrahim Jafari Iraqi foreign minister also attended the congress reporting that the Iraqi army and various popular groups have joined forces to stop the extremist forces. “In Iraq the highest number of crimes by these extremists has been committed against the Sunni population. As results, all Iraqis, Shia and Sunni, have united to fight against DAESH (ISIS),” he was quoted as saying.

The spokesman for Lebanon’s Hezbollah Seyed Ebrahim Amin al-Seyed said the extremists are feeding from divisions among Muslim groups and they have targeted the “strength and unity of Muslims.”

The deputy organizer of the event Mahmoud Vaziri reported that 40 percent of the guests attending the congress were Shia and 60 percent were Sunni. In a speech at the opening, Vaziri said: “The congress has convened in view of the important and extraordinary events that have been taking place in the past 40 months in the Middle East region especially in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.”

While the guests reportedly welcomed the congress and its objective, some had questioned Iran’s concern with ISIS extremism as their scope of activities does not stretch into Iranian territory. Mehdi Alizadeh Mousavi, deputy secretary of the congress responded saying: “Any issue that affects the world of Islam is of concern for Iran and we also want to take lessons to prevent such movements from taking shape in Iran.

Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, the chief force behind the Congress also spoke in the opening ceremonies saying fighting against extremism cannot only take a military shape. Complete elimination of extremism can only be accomplished through religious teachings aimed at drying out the ideological and intellectual roots of such movements. He added that the gathering should respect the sanctities of all different Muslim groups present and refrain from divisive arguments.

The congress follows in the steps of the International coalition against ISIS initiated by western powers devising military, political and security strategies of cooperation between world powers to act against the ISIS forces. The initiative taken by Iranian Muslim leaders and scholars is trying to create a united ideological front comprised of various Muslim groups against the extremism of ISIS.