Sunnis Rally Behind Shia

Scholars denounce 'terrorists' and call for unity in wake of Ashura bombings


| March 11, 2004


Iraqi Shiites celebrated the American capture of Saddam Hussein last December because it meant his brutal regime would never relegate them to second-class citizenship again. Meanwhile, many Sunnis mourned, since their status as a power-holding minority, with one of their own at the head of a brutal dictatorship, had officially ended. As Aqil Jabbar reports for the IWPR, 'gangs of youth threw stones at each other on the Imam's Bridge spanning the Tigris between the north Baghdad Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiya and the Shia district of al-Kadhemiya.'

But the two sects are not necessarily arch enemies in post-Saddam Iraq. After near simultaneous, deadly blasts shattered the peace in Baghdad and Falluja during the Shiites' Ashura festival on March 2, Sunnis 'rallied to the support of their Shia compatriots by condemning the attacks, offering condolences and donating blood to the injured,' Jabbar writes. 'Killing Muslims is haram, forbidden,' IWPR quoted Sheikh Kassem al-Jinaby, the Sunni imam of the Samarrai mosque in Falluja. 'We condemn this terrorist work which wants to make a sectarian war between Sunni and Shia. We ordered people in Falluja to go to Baghdad to help the Shia. Hundreds have gone.' The Western media have focused on the rifts between the Sunnis, the Shia, and Kurds to the north, invoking the specter of a power vacuum during and after the U.S.-led occupation. But this intra-Islamic solidarity suggests that the Iraq picture may be more complex than the simple 'ancient tribal/ethnic/sectarian hatred' scenario so beloved of Western pundits.

In her book A Problem from Hell Samantha Powers accuses policymakers and journalists of over-simplifying ethnic strife as a way to excuse themselves from any responsibility to step in and act. 'During the conflict in Bosnia, U.S. officials had tried to convince journalists that the conflict was the product of ancient tribal hatreds,' she writes. Later, reporters in Rwanda 'adopted this frame on their own.' During an interview on the NPR program On the Media, she adds: 'There may well have been incidents of ethnic killing and conflict over the centuries, but it has been a kind of time-tested and quite successful alibi used both by perpetrators and by bystanders.'
-- Jacob Wheeler

Go there>> Sunnis Rally Behind Shia

Go there too>> NPR On the Media transcript: The G-World Shuffle

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