A union of Sunni Muslim clerics on Saturday criticised calls for Iraqi Shiites to fight a jihadist-led militant offensive in northern Iraq, which the body called a "Sunni revolution".
The Doha-based International Union of Muslim Scholars said developments in Iraq were a "result of oppression and exclusion of people that wanted freedom," in reference to the country's minority Sunni Arab community.
The union, which is led by influential cleric Yusef al-Qaradawi, who is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, denounced "sectarian fatwa edicts calling for arms among our Shiite brothers" insisting they would lead to "devastating sectarian war."
"We urge our Shiite brothers in Iraq and elsewhere, and Sunnis, to avoid being the fuel for an awful sectarian war, and call on them to stand by their Sunni brothers to reach a viable solution," it said.
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Thousands of Shiite volunteers have reportedly signed up after revered Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called on Iraqis to join the fight against the militants.
A major offensive, spearheaded by powerful jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant but also involving late dictator Saddam Hussein's supporters, has overrun a large chunk of northern and north-central Iraq since Monday.
The clerical union said the insurgency "could not have been led by one Islamist party," a reference to ISIL, instead describing it as a "all-out Sunni revolution."
"This is not a revolution against the Shiites. It is aimed at recovering legitimate rights," it said, calling for the formation of a "national unity government."