Sunnis Rally Behind Shia

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

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Sunnis Rally Behind Shia

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NPR On the Media transcript: The G-World Shuffle

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