*Baghdad mosques are emerging as safe places for civil society dialogue, according to Abd al-Latif al-Sa`dun in al-Hayat. In the Mosque of Umm al-Tabul in the middle of Baghdad, men of religion, clan elders, and technocrats held a ‘foundational conference’ to set up an autonomous administration that would oversee the Karkh quarter in the West of Baghdad. This mosque committee, dedicated to returning the life of the quarter to normal, was modeled on the “Hawzah `Ilmiyyah’ or religious establishment of the holy city of Najaf, as well as on the municipal steering committees that now oversee many towns of the middle Euphrates. Cleric Ibrahim al-Mudarris explained that the initiative aimed at implementing the power of the mosque in the framework of practical measures such as establishing neighborhood militias to provide security and distribute food. On the other hand, one Shaykh Mahdi Ahmad al-Samid`i denied that the committee had anything to do with establishing the power of the mosque. Others say that the phrase “power of the mosque” does not rule out tolerance for all political parties and religious sects, and simply indicates a spiritual role for the mosque. It is being alleged that such mosque-based committees and militias stand for the unity of Sunnis and Shiites, but this strikes me as propaganda. Most mosques and their congregations would be one or the other, and as someone who saw the neighborhood militias arise in Lebanon, I am not sanguine about how “tolerant” they are likely to be.
*Adnan Pachachi has called for a quick restoration of security to Iraq, and says he will not accept political office unless he is elected to it. This statement by the octogenarian politician seems to be a criticism of Ahmad Chalabi, who seems entirely willing to be appointed to head the transitional government of Iraq. –Az-Zaman
*The Sunni clerics of al-Azhar Seminary in Cairo have issued a new fatwa requiring Muslim states to seek nuclear weapons. The ruling says that for Muslim states to renounce such weapons while non-Muslim governments have them would be a horrible mistake. Muslims, the clerics said, have a duty to strive to be as powerful as their enemies. –Az-Zaman
*A local metropolitan newspaper kindly had me out a few months ago to brief its reporters about the looming Iraq war, especially with an eye to what a reporter on the ground in Iraq should look for. “Mass graves,” I said. Given the death tolls in the spring, 1991, rebellion and its quashing, and given the massive repression by Saddam in its aftermath, I was sure there were such mass graves in Iraq. The discovery of 3200 bodies recently is only the beginning, I am afraid.
*Members of the parties in dialogue with Paul Bremer say that they are dismayed by the stranglehold America and its appointees have over Iraqi administration, leaving the parties almost nothing to do. They fear that American cronies will become so ensconced in the reconstituted ministries that any minister appointed in the future will be powerless before them.