Sunnis Press for Peace

BAGHDAD, Mar 6 (IPS) – As violence continues throughout much of Iraq, many Sunni political and religious leaders continue to urge their followers to resist launching reprisal attacks.

Scores of Iraqis, Sunni and Shia alike, are being killed daily. Recent incidents of violence included an assassination attempt on senior Sunni leader Adnan Al-Dulaimi who leads the Sunnis’ largest parliamentary bloc. Al-Dulaimi survived the attack which killed one of his guards.

According to Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Ghafour Al-Samaraie who heads the Sunni Endowment in the Iraqi government which takes care of Sunni mosques, 45 Sunni preachers and mosque staff have been killed in the recent violence.

Last Friday, which is the most significant day of prayer for Muslims, found another daytime curfew in the capital city, which forbade all vehicular traffic. Nevertheless, at the Sunni Abu Hanifa Mosque in Baghdad, hundreds of worshippers walked past Iraqi security forces to pray.

“We cannot accept tribalism, clannishness, partisanship or fanaticism,” said the Imam of the mosque, Sheikh Muayad Al-Adhami to the worshippers. “We are ordered by the prophet Muhammad to put all of these out of souls, we should all be one people.”

Inside the mosque, whose main wooden gate was damaged in a recent attack, Sheikh Al-Adhami told the worshippers he condemned the acts of violence against both Sunni and Shia, and blamed “foreigners” for the violence, instability and the recent bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra.

“We call all of you Muslims to adhere to your doctrines and beliefs,” the Imam urged. “Keep your eyes on the religion we are all worshipping.”

After the Imam concluded the prayers, many worshippers weary of the violence, tension and curfews, said solidarity and calm were the answer to the crisis.

“The Sheikh expressed our feelings, we must call for unity and not give any reason to the invaders to feel they have divided us,” 45-year-old Akram Hamaidan told IPS. “Since you are a journalist please tell the world that we should keep our souls clear from hatred, revenge, and offences.”

With little hope in sight for a solution to the bloody chaos in Iraq, people like Salam Al-Sultan feel that the only solution is unity against foreign influences, and reliance on their faith.

“These days we are always facing dangers day and night,” said the 66-year-old retired merchant. “Fear is our breakfast due to the shooting at night, road explosions in the middle of the day and detentions and killings all around us.” But he added, “We should not ask for revenge, we ask God to forgive them.”

Nevertheless, politically the situation in Iraq falls deeper into chaos.

Leaders of three political parties, including Kurds and Sunnis, recently agreed to ask the main Shia bloc to withdraw Ibrahim Al-Jaafari’s nomination for prime minister. The letter received by Shia officials requested they put forth a new candidate for the position, which led an aid to Al-Jaafari to lash out at the Kurdish and Sunni political leaders who mounted the campaign to have him removed from his post.

Meanwhile, according to Jaafari’s aide Haider al-Ibadi, the Shia United Iraqi Alliance(UIA) have said they will not change him as their candidate.

This move by the Kurdish and Sunni secular political groups has been perceived by the UIA as influenced by U.S. meddling in the affairs of the new Iraqi government.

The move further complicates the goal of an inclusive Iraqi government. Talks over this had crumbled last week after Sunni parties withdrew in protest when Sunni mosques were attacked in retaliation for the bombing of the Al-Ashkari shrine in Samarra.

Nineteen-year-old university student Ali Samir said his religion was under attack from the occupation forces. “Those criminals, we should stand in front of their aims,” he said while holding a banner which read, ‘No God but God, Muhammad messenger of God.’

“Those invaders are not just crushing our mosques,” he said. “We should defend our beliefs because I don’t accept to see my brothers be humiliated.”