[May. 21st, 2005|09:54 am]

From The Washington Post:

“Let them express their hatred in the way they know best,” Jalaledin Saghir, a (Shiite) cleric, said quietly after the mortar shells landed a few dozen feet from the thousands of Shiites gathered at the Buratha mosque. Mosque walls bore black fliers announcing the killings of three Shiites in recent days, including a relative of the cleric.

The story is actually about how a prominent Sunni cleric is closing all the mosques in Baghdad for three days “to protest killings that some have blamed on militias allied with Iraq’s new Shiite-led government.”

There are two issues one must parse here. The first is the fact that the insurgency consists largely of Sunni Muslims. They have shown no remorse in killing politicians (both Shiite and those Sunnis cooperating with the new government and/or Americans), any and all civilians, national and foreign security forces and so on. Importantly, though, they have attacked Shiite mosques. This leads me to believe that it’s rather ridiculous for this Sunni cleric to protest killings of Sunnis when the extremists in his own faith have been the source of so much of the unrest and violence throughout Iraq against Shiites, Kurds, Christians, Americans and others. But the second issue makes me question this conclusion.

The Sunni cleric could be protesting the fact that government-sanctioned forces participated in the killings. Such an action by a supposedly legitimate government against a minority group it has pledged and required to protect would serve to undermine its integrity. Such a protest might then be understandable: government killings of innocent Sunnis must be stopped.

Unfortunately, the synthesis of these two ideas is that the Shiite-led government makes any argument or protest against it, to some extent, based in religion. That is, the Sunni cleric’s protest and shutdown of the mosques can only be seen as a mixture of illegitimate religious protest (the Shiites has taken great strides to stem any responding attacks on Sunni sites after the hundreds of Shiite deaths) and legitimate human rights/political/governmental protest (no government should be allowed to practice violence upon innocents).

This is, of course, my naive view of the situation after a semester of undergraduate Islam study, some spotty personal reading of the Koran and other self-research into the situation, area and religion.

Ultimately, though, I found the opening quote to accurately sum up my feelings about the situation. But, moreover, I think it expresses the growing scorn in the Shiite community for both the inability of the government and the American-led alliance to defeat the insurgency and the Iraqi Sunni community which continues to foster and produce this violence.

But the story continues: “‘Give us the order, and we will destroy the world for you,’ a young man told the (Sunni) cleric after prayers.”

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