The holy men whose shrines dot our land all unequivocally denounce violence. Many of them in fact have been victims of intolerance and violent actions by their adversaries.

Today Iraqis – whether Shiite or Sunni – are sad, after the bombing of Holy Shrine of al-Askari in Samarra.

As we mourn the destruction of this holy site, we have all to remember that if alive, the saint himself would have been the first to condemn the kind of the violent reprisals we have seen over recent days.

Most of the revered figures, whose shrines we are to protect and teachings we disseminate, lost their lives and became martyrs because they steadfastly fought oppression and the killing of innocent people. The holy spirits of the imams and revered figures, whose tombs and mausoleums sanctify every inch of our land, would certainly curse anyone shedding a single drop of innocent blood. These holy figures taught us patience, tolerance, dialogue and coexistence, but unfortunately many of us are doing exactly the opposite.

There is no question that today, more than any time before, we are required to pursue the path of dialogue, tolerance and reconciliation for which these holy men sacrificed their lives.

The Shiite shrines in Samarra have been there for centuries, and have been protected by that Sunni-dominated city. The Sunnis venerated the shrines and treated them with the same degree of respect as their Shiite brethren. [Editor's Note: The Golden Dome of the Samarra Mosque was actually completed in 1905. [RealVideo].

For centuries, Shiites and Sunni Muslims have lived together peacefully. No one even bothered to know or ask about the other’s sect or religious affiliation. We simply didn't want to know who was who.

Today - and thanks to U.S. style democracy - we have become a violently sectarian society. In the nearly three years since the U.S. invasion, we have divided ourselves into uncompromising sects and factions, bent on undermining one another.

Let us recall the message of tolerance and coexistence our holy men wanted to spread. If we are really their followers and descendants, then we should work together as brothers who can tolerate one another, coexist with another and are ready for compromise and reconciliation.