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Iraq: Sunnis saved Hundreds of Shiites

 
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 04, 2005 5:26 pm    Post subject: Iraq: Sunnis saved Hundreds of Shiites Reply with quote

Iraq: Tragedy & Turning Point

Amir Taheri, NY Post thru RCI:

THEY had been coming from all over Iraq in their thousands for days, being joined on arrival by thousands more from a dozen other countries. It was the 26th month of Rajab on the Muslim lunar calendar: a special day for Shiites throughout the world. For it marked the death by poisoning 1,206 years ago of Moussa bin Jaafar, the seventh Imam of the 12 Shiite Imams.

Each of the 12 Imams is known for one particular gift he can bestow on the believers. Moussa bin Jaafar's gift is patience hence his sobriquet of Kazim (The Tamer of Anger). A day at his shrine in the Kazimiyah suburb of Baghdad will provide the pilgrim with a whole year of spiritual repose. It gives the sick the patience to endure pain. The poor obtain from it the serenity of hope. Girls who cannot find husbands return from the pilgrimage with the assurance that they will not die spinsters.

And in these hard days of uncertainty and terror, patience is what Iraqis need most.

And, yet, on Wednesday, the Serene Imam, the Tamer of Anger, was unable to save his people from the worst. Before the sun had set, at least 1,000 people mostly women and children were dead, trampled under foot in a stampede or drowned in the Tigris River into which they had jumped from a bridge jam packed with pilgrims.

Then something unexpected happened: Sunnis watching from the neighboring Azamiyah district of Baghdad jumped into the river to save the screaming Shiites from drowning. READ MORE

"Our Sunni neighbors saved hundreds of lives," Muhammad Jawad, a teacher in Sadr City (the Shiite slum on the river's eastbank), who was present on the scene, told Arab TV channels. "Many Sunni brothers also drove their cars to the river to take the wounded to hospital."

The tragedy has pushed Iraq to the edge. Some radical Shiites have called for revenge. But the conclave of Shiite grand ayatollahs, meeting in Najaf on Thursday, called for "calm, patience and serenity in grief," the gifts that the Imam was supposed to bestow.

"This tragedy should bring all Iraqis, Shiite and Sunni, Arab and Kurd, closer together," a spokesman for Grand Ayatollah Ali-Muhammad Sistani, the primus inter pares of the Shiite clergy, said Thursday. "We must not allow enemies of Islam and of Iraq to exploit this tragedy for their evil ends."

Similar sentiments came from Harith al-Dhari, the Grand Mufti of the Iraqi Sunni Arabs. "Those who died are martyrs of the Iraqi people as a whole," he said.

"Far from pushing Iraq towards civil war, as some in the West suggest, this tragedy could bring Shiites and Sunnis closer together," says Ghazi al-Yawar, Iraq's vice president and leader of the nation's largest Sunni Arab tribe. "The Shiites saw how many Sunnis risked their own lives by jumping into the river to save theirs. They saw Iraqis coming to help other Iraqis."

Shiite leaders must bear part of the responsibility for the tragedy. They know that in Iraq today, any gathering of Shiites becomes a target for non-Iraqi Arab militants who have come to Iraq to cause death and desolation.

In the past three years, more than 700 Shiites have been killed by suicide operations and car-bomb attacks organized by non-Iraqi Arab terrorists. The terrorists hope to provoke the Shiites into revenge killings against Sunnis, thus triggering the civil war that al Qaeda has long dreamt of for Iraq.

The wisest course for the Shiites is not to give the terrorists the opportunities they need to realize that dream. One way to do that is to decide a moratorium on mass pilgrimages at least until after the Oct. 15 constitutional referendum.

Since liberation in 2003, Shiites have organized mass pilgrimages both to mark their demographic strength and to make up for decades during which they were not allowed to perform the rites under successive despotic regimes. For many Shiites (including some secular ones), these amounted to a catharsis, marking the end of a nightmare symbolized by Saddam Hussein. More than three years after liberation, however, there is no longer any valid reason for such especially when it could lead to tragedy.

Iraq has now accepted a political process in which matters are resolved through elections, in the parliament and the newly created media rather in the street. Even most Sunni Arabs now wish to pursue their political goals through this new process, rather than via the terrorist insurgency that falsely speaks in their name.

The government cannot, indeed should not, intervene to ban mass pilgrimages. So it is incumbent on the grand ayatollahs, especially Sistani, to take the lead. They should issue a fatwa (opinion) imposing a moratorium on mass pilgrimages for at least the next two months. If they don't, they may well be held responsible for future tragedies for Iraq lacks the trained staff and the materiel needed to guide, protect and control huge crowds.

What Iraq needs is a period of calm and introspection as it ponders its future as charted by the draft constitution proposed by its elected representatives.

Amir Taheri is a member of Benador Associates.

Another amazing report.

posted by DoctorZin @ 12:38 PM
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