Shiite Crowds Preachers Denounce

Shiite Crowds, Preachers, Denounce Interim Constitution

az-Zaman, ash-Sharq al-Awsat; wire services: The Shiite clerical leader Muhammad al-Ya`qubi called on high school students and students in institutes and colleges throughout Iraq to announce a strike on Saturday, in protest against the contents of the Basic Law or interim constitution. Over 1,000 Shiites demonstrated Friday in the center of Baghdad against the basic law. They also held Friday prayers in the open at Firdaws Square.

They belonged to Ya`qubi’s Virtue Party, an offshoot of the Sadrist movement of the late Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr. They criticized the Interim Governing Council, and article 61 of the interim constitution. Placards warned the Interim Governing Council that future generations of Iraqis would curse them if they squandered their rights.

They carried slogans like “We don’t want an American Constitution; the Governing Council sold Iraq!” and “Islam is threatened by a time bomb planted in the Interim Constitution.”

AFP reported that some demonstrators chanted, “”They want Iraq to split into many countries, and they want us to be their subjects,” they chanted. “We will never accept a constitution written by the Jews.”

AP reports, “Protesters hurled stones at a passing pair of armored civilian SUVs, of the type often used by coalition workers or plainclothes security officials, forcing the vehicles to back away. There were no injuries.

Shaikh Ali al-Sa`idi, a representative of Ya`qubi, told Agence France Presse that “This people’s will was thwarted for 35 years in the era of Saddam, and now it is unable to express its will again in the shadow of the American occupation of Iraq.”

Ya`qubi’s statement was read at Friday prayers, calling on the governing council “not to take fateful decisions such as granting citizenship citizenship to foreigners, privatizing vital sectors, and signing treaties regading security and strategy, since it is merely an interim council lacking any real legitimacy.”

In Kufa, Muqtada al-Sadr, the other major Sadrist leader, gave a sermon before thousands of worshippers in which he said, “This law resembles the Balfour Declaration, which sold off Palestine. We are on the way to selling Iraq and Islam. It is a bad omen.”

In Najaf, Sad al-Din al-Qubanji of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq preached at the mosque attached to the shrine of Imam Ali. He said that there were weak points in the law, especially the issue of its legitimacy. Since the Iraqi people had not voted on it, and nor had the religious jurisprudents, it really has no standing, he said. He also complained again about the three Kurdish provinces having a veto over the new constitution to be fashioned in 2005.

In Kazimiyah, Shaikh Ra’id al-Kazimi questioned the legitimacy of the occupation, of its appointed interim governing council, and of any document produced by the latter.

In Karbala, Shaikh Ahmad Safi, the representative of Grand Ayatollah Sistani, condemned the interim constitution as “a farce of history.”

In general, the Shiite mosque preachers didn’t seem to like it very much. The comparisons of it to the Balfour Declaration and the suspicion that it was “written by the Jews” invokes the fate of the other main Arab population living under occupation, the Palestinians, whom the Israelis have robbed of their civil liberties and much of their land. It is an inaccurate description of the Coalition intentions, but it may well be effective in street protests.

Had the United States and the UK involved the United Nations from the beginning and made sure to have UN Security Council resolutions authorizing their actions, they would be in a better position to respond to the charges of illegitimacy. As it is, all we can say is that Dick Cheney wanted it this way.

In other news, AP reported that “In Baghdad, a prominent supporter of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was shot and killed in Baghdad’s al-Shawafa district, movement spokesman Adnan al-Safi said Friday. Thursday’s shooting of Kazim al-Sayed Musa al-Ghoriebi came hours after a Sunni Muslim cleric was wounded in what he claimed was an assassination attempt. His son and son-in-law were killed.

The killing came after the assassination of a Sunni cleric in Baghdad.