Sunday, December 11, 2005

Murder of man of peace inspires a voters' revolt

THE grand mufti of Falluja, Sheikh Hamza Abbas al-Issawi, knew he was risking his life by urging worshippers to vote in Iraq’s elections this week and by preaching against terrorist violence.

Refusing to be intimidated, he intensified his rhetoric after receiving death threats from radical Islamists for criticising Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. He challenged his shadowy enemies by declaring at prayers: “I know I am targeted.”

Death came to the 70-year-old grand mufti 12 days ago, when he was gunned down in front of his teenage son by three masked men in a silver BMW. Many inhabitants of Iraq’s “city of mosques” intend to honour his memory by casting their ballots on December 15.

Issawi was an influential scholar who castigated militants loyal to Zarqawi for “un-Islamic behaviour” and blamed them for provoking last year’s American military offensive against the city. He also encouraged local Sunnis to enrol in the police and military, fearing they could be needed to defend Falluja in a future sectarian war.

Despite advice from friends and family not to attend dawn and evening prayers, Issawi insisted he was a man of God who would not be cowed. “He believed that Allah protected people and not bodyguards,” a close friend said.

Following his assassination, the city held three days of official mourning. Shops, schools and government institutions shut down to protest against his killing. Thousands attended his funeral, with many chanting anti-American slogans.

But others vowed to avenge his death by hunting down Zarqawi loyalists. Often the two emotions got mixed up. “It is all Bush’s fault,” said Ahmad, who did not want his last name used. “Under Saddam, Al-Qaeda would not have dared to raise their heads and now people are slaughtered and assassinated every day.”

At the Mother of All Battles mosque in the western part of the city, a cleric denounced the “murderers” and said believers had a responsibility to vote on Thursday.

Most of Falluja’s residents boycotted elections for an interim government in January, but they turned out in large numbers in October to vote against the proposed constitution. By going to the polls this week, they hope to increase Sunni influence over the new government, which could remain dominated by Shi’ites.

“We will not allow an Iranian-style country to be built over our backs. Our voices and votes were lost when we boycotted the elections,” said a 30-year-old man who gave his name only as Mustafa. “We are going to take our rightful number of seats in the assembly and the government. We refuse to remain shadows in our own country.”

Families in Falluja still recount how their homes were destroyed and their loved ones died when US forces cleared the city last year. Most people insist their votes should not be taken to mean they accept the status quo, but rather that they intend to fight from within.

President George W Bush, who is to make his third major speech in recent weeks about Iraq in Philadelphia tomorrow, regards it as an encouraging sign that Sunnis are engaging in the political process.

Bush said last week Iraqis were learning “democracy is the only way to build a just and peaceful society because it’s the only system that gives every citizen a voice in determining its future”.

Iraqis have been inundated with election adverts depicting in rose-tinted hues what the elections could mean — a choice between violence and a democratic, if uncertain, future.

The campaign has been marred by assassinations, daily bombings and killings, allegations of government-sanctioned torture and fears of a civil war between Sunnis and Shi’ites.

This is a freakin' Outrage.
Matters not who murdered this man.
Whoever it was deserves to spend the rest of their lives in prison.
Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called the Children of God. 


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home