As U.S. military actions continue to raise the staggeringly high toll of dead Iraqis, Sunnis and Shias appear to be uniting against the occupation.
The number of Iraqi dead in Fallujah last month in the so-called Sunni triangle is estimated by doctors to be more than 800. Fighting involving Shia Muslims in the south has claimed the lives of hundreds as well.
“From the nature of the people, any action has a reaction,” Imam Muad Al-Adhamy told IPS at his office at the Abu Hanifa mosque in Al-Adhamiyah in Baghdad. This mosque is the center of the country’s Sunni power. “With the Americans attacking Najaf and Kerbala (holy cities of the Shias) there is resistance, and we support this.”
Asked about divisions between Sunnis and Shias in the past, Imam Al-Adhamy said “what is happening is happening to all of Iraq. There is no difference now between Sunni and Shia, Arab and Kurd. We have all been invaded.”
The Imam believes his followers share this feeling. “The feelings of the people of this mosque are the same as all Iraqis Iraqi blood is precious and should not be shed. But freedom needs this blood if we cannot obtain it by peaceful means.”
This sentiment echoes that of Sheikh Abdul Hadi Al-Daraji, a deputy of the embattled Shia cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr. On Friday last week when Shias from across Iraq attended prayers at Sunni mosques, Sheikh Al-Daraji delivered a strong sermon at the Abu Hanifa mosque.
“We have come here to prove that the forces of evil will never be able to detract from Sunni-Shia unity,” he said. “Your enemy has come to sow the seeds of social chaos among Sunnis and Shias, but he has failed because Islam is one.”
Members of the congregation echoed these sentiments.
“I have given my blood for the people of Fallujah in April,” said Abdul Aziz after the sermon at Abu Hanifa. “I will do the same for the people in Najaf, because we are all Iraqi. There is no Sunni or Shia now, we are all together against the Americans.”
As the fighting in Kerbala continues to rage into the weekend, in Baghdad another Sunni Imam at the Nidal Islam Mosque, Imam Kutaibia Ama’ash, said that “the actions of the US are uniting the Sunni and Shia. The US actions via the Governing Council are an attempt to divide us, but the result has been the opposite.”
Expressing solidarity with embattled Iraqis throughout his country, he said “all of the people of this mosque are supporting the people of Fallujah, Najaf, and Kerbala. We give full support to the people resisting the Americans.”
A member of the mosque, Sheikh Haji Abdul Majit, said “they brought us a Governing Council that loves Israel more than Iraq.”
While the firebrand cleric al-Sadr has caused some rifts within the Shia population of southern Iraq, he is said to have a large following.
After a battle in the sprawling slum neighborhood of Sadr City in Baghdad last Sunday, the US military used air support to destroy the headquarters of al-Sadr there. At the destroyed building children chanted, “Live, live for Sadr! Americans and the Governing Council are unbelievers!”
Sheikh Mahmoud Zaidi, a cleric who is an al-Sadr supporter, said: “You see the people here? They will not stop fighting the invaders, no matter what happens. They are fighting the people. That is why they will never defeat us.”
All of the clerics interviewed seem to agree that the only solution to the ongoing violence in Iraq is a complete withdrawal of the US military.
“If the invaders would treat people better, this would never happen,” said Imam Muad Al-Adhamy. “We have been put in a worse position than Saddam Hussein’s time. Nothing is worse than being invaded.”
Now that the United States has achieved the goal of removing Saddam Hussein, and seen that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the Imam said he sees no need for the US troops to remain in Iraq. “The invaders should pull out, 100 percent.”
(Inter Press Service)