In unusually moderate sermon, Sunni Arab imam calls

In unusually moderate sermon, Sunni Arab imam calls
November 27th, 2005  
Team Infidel

Topic: In unusually moderate sermon, Sunni Arab imam calls

In unusually moderate sermon, Sunni Arab imam calls
In unusually moderate sermon, Sunni Arab imam calls for unity between Iraq's rival Muslim communities

By HAMZA HENDAWI - Associated Press Writer
MAHMOUDIYA, Iraq - (AP) A day after 30 people died in a
suicide bombing here, the preacher at a major Sunni Arab mosque Friday
condemned the horrific attack and called for unity between Iraq's rival
Muslim communities.
Still, resentment of the country's Shiite political parties runs
high in this troubled town 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Baghdad _ along
with anti-American sentiment.
"The targeting of innocent civilians yesterday cannot be accepted,"
sheik Murad al-Oujaili told the congregation at the 14th of Ramadan mosque,
relating how a witness told him of an infant ripped from his mother's arm
and hurled to his death by the force of the blast.
In the attack, a suicide bomber detonated his vehicle at the
entrance to a hospital compound as American soldiers were there inspecting
the facility and handing out candy to children. Four U.S. soldiers were
slightly wounded. The dead included three women and two children.
The bombing appeared part of the pattern of violence, including
reprisal attacks between Sunnis and Shiites, which has given this once quiet
farming area just south of Baghdad the nickname "Triangle of Death."
"This thing about Shiites and Sunnis is new to us in Iraq," the
sheik told the worshippers, most of them bearded, robed men in their 20s and
30s. "We are all Iraqis and we must stop blaming each other."
His message suggests that many Sunni Arabs, the disaffected minority
that forms the backbone of the insurgency, may be growing weary of the
increasingly sectarian character of the violence.
Banners condemning the suicide bombing appeared Friday in the main
outdoor market, and residents say many people now routinely report
suspicious individuals, cars and other objects to security forces.
"These attacks are genocide against the Iraqi people. They have
nothing to do with resistance," said Abdel-Ilah Nijm, a 28-year-old house
The Mahmoudiya area is home to some 300,000 people, slightly more
than half of them Sunni Arabs and the rest Shiites. Early last year,
insurgents in the area began targeting Shiite residents as well as pilgrims
and politicians traveling to Shiite shrine cities to the south.
Many Shiites have fled the area to escape threats and intimidation
by Sunni militants. Scores of people from both sects have been slain over
the past year in apparent reprisal killings.
Apart from the violence, residents struggle with economic hardship _
due in large part to the chronic fuel and electricity shortages that have
made it difficult to run irrigation pumps in an area dependent on farming
for its livelihood.
Residents say they will take part in the Dec. 15 national
parliamentary election, and posters advertising the different political
movements appear on the town's walls. U.S. officials hope the election will
produce a parliament with greater Sunni representation to encourage the
minority community to turn its back on the insurgency.
The Sunni boycott of the January elections gave power to majority
Shiites and Kurds.
But some in Mahmoudiya fear the election could enflame sectarian
tensions and suppress the voices of reconciliation.
Ibrahim Jassim Mohammed, an official of the Shiite movement led by
radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, said their campaign workers operate under
cover of darkness when plastering posters on walls and visiting voters in
their homes.
"I think it will be good for Iraq and for everyone to take part in
the December election," sheik al-Oujaili told The Associated Press after the
Friday prayers. "But it's a choice that each one of us must make."
The new interest in politics, however, has not been matched by a
change of heart about the United States. Iraqis here and elsewhere blame the
Americans for the country's problems including Shiite-Sunni tensions, fuel
shortages and power outages.
"I still remember my fifth grade lesson about the colonialist policy
of divide and rule," al-Oujaili said in his sermon, suggesting that the
Americans want to push Iraq's Sunnis and Shiites apart.
Aref Taha, a father of four who said his wife was shot dead a year
ago by U.S. soldiers in unexplained circumstances, mused about the
forthcoming elections, the loss of his Shiite farm hands through
intimidation by Sunni militants and how he and his children cope with a life
of shortages, danger and personal loss.
"These Shiite political parties, they are all Iranians," he said,
echoing an often repeated charge by Sunni Arabs that Shiite parties are too
close to the Iranians. "The constitution they gave us will break up Iraq."
His eldest son Zaid, 15, bears scars from the shooting in which his
mother died and bitterness for the soldiers he blames for her death.
"I hated the Americans from the day they arrived in Iraq," he said.
"Now my hatred for them is intense."