About 10000 Shiites Turned Out For

*About 10,000 Shiites turned out for peaceful demonstrations in Baghdad Monday against continued US occupation of Iraq, and against the American slighting of the Shiite leadership. One organizer had predicted a million man march, so this result fell substantially short of his expectations. The US army did not interfere with the demonstrations,which was wise on its part. It appears to be the case that Iraqi Shiites are just not that upset with the US at the moment, and that the various religious parties do not have so much sway that they can mount a really impressive demonstration. Monday’s rallies would be important only if they are a harbinger of much bigger and more confrontational demonstrations down the road.

*Many Sunni Iraqis living in the Shiite South of the country have, according to Az-Zaman newspaper today, complained to the Shiite religious leadership in Najaf and Karbala about Shiite political organizations taking over Sunni mosques there. These moves come despite the fatwa issued by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani forbidding such usurpation of Sunni mosques by Shiites. (The office speaking in the name of “al-Sayyid al-Sadr” has given the same instructions.) Saddam made a point of building many new Sunni mosques in Shiite areas and letting them sermonize, whereas he forbade Shiite clergy from preaching sermons. Shiites are understandably resentful of the ways in which Sunnis remain on top economically and politically, in some case because Saddam threw key economic resources to them.

Several Sunni mosques have been usurped in an-Nasiriya and al-Samawah. The new Shiite leadership of a couple of the stolen mosques say they will return them to the Sunnis because they follow Sistani and will respect his fatwa. But other new mosque leaderships are refusing to relinquish the former Sunni mosques, saying that they belong to the al-Da`wa Party and do not consider themselves bound by Sistani’s rulings. In a way, this latter sentiment has even more potentially dire consequences for the Shiite south than does the usurpation of a few mosques.

*Lebanese Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Husain Fadlullah denounced guerrilla operations that kill innocent civilians. It now appears he was mainly referring to the bombings in Casablanca. Fadlullah says such operations are contrary to Islam.

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