Al-Jazeera program angers many Shiites in Iraq, thousands demonstrate in protest




 
--
Boots
 
December 14th, 2005  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Al-Jazeera program angers many Shiites in Iraq, thousands demonstrate in protest


By BASSEM MROUE - Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD, Iraq - (AP) Angry Shiites marched Wednesday and set fire
to the offices of a secular politician to protest remarks made on a talk
show on Al-Jazeera television, in which a Sunni Arab guest criticized Iraq's
Shiite religious leaders.
Fadel al-Rubaei, a Sunni politician living in exile, said Shiite
clerics should not take part in politics and accused them of conspiring with
the Americans against the mostly Sunni insurgents.
The statements angered many Shiites, including many who did not see
the Al-Jazeera show but saw reports on an Iraqi station, Al-Furat, owned by
the biggest Iraqi Shiite party.
Al-Furat said that legislator Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, head of the
Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, "condemns violations
against Shiites religious leaders broadcast through one of satellite
channels known for its hatred to the Iraqi people."
Al-Jazeera officials in Qatar were not available for comment.
Hours later thousands of people chanted anti-Al-Jazeera slogans in
the streets of different Baghdad neighborhood such as Sadr City and Karradah
as well as the southern cities of Najaf and Karbala.
The demonstrations, which turned into political rallies, threatened
to further polarize the elections after angry Shiites in the southern city
of Nasiriyah set fire to a building housing the offices of former interim
Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. A secular Shiite, Allawi has campaigned on a
platform calling for national reconciliation.
"The headquarters was attacked by militiamen who broke inside and
set fire to the building. This is a terrorist act that contradicts democracy
and this is the reason we are calling for eliminating the militia groups in
Iraq," Thaer al-Naqib, Allawi's spokesman, told The Associated Press.
Several Shiite groups still maintain armed militias.
"Those militiamen consider the political process as a threat to them
and they want to stop this process. Those militia groups are working against
the hopes of the Iraqi people and they should be finished," al-Naqib added.
The Shiite United Iraqi Alliance, which currently holds majority
seats in parliament, is expected to do well in Thursday's general elections.
Shiite spiritual leaders have indirectly asked their followers to vote for
the slate.
"Clerics, especially those in the Shiite seminary, go to your
mosques and don't work in politics. Keep politics for politicians and stop
conspiring against the resistance," al-Rubaei said in the Opposite Direction
program aired Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon on the Qatar-based
station.
Al-Rubaei said the Shiite clerics were "the biggest conspirators
against the resistance. They are the ones who want it to die in its first
confrontation with the Americans."
A group of senior religious students in the Shiite holy city in
Najaf, where the country's top four Shiite clerics live, called the program
"a provocation and flagrant aggression on the values and feelings of Muslims
whether in Iraq or around the world."
The statement said Al-Jazeera is "is financed by countries,
governments, regimes, intelligence agencies and Muslim extremists who came
to power through military coups."
The students said people will respond to Al-Jazeera in polling
stations Thursday "in the most beautiful democratic wedding in the east."
They added that Al-Jazeera knows that the emir of Qatar came to power in a
military coup against his father.