December 16, 2003


Iraq: women join Shia revival: The collapse of the Ba'athist regime has given Shia women a chance to learn about their once-suppressed faith. (Usama Hashem Rida, 6 Dec 2003, The Institute for War & Peace Reporting)

For Abd al-Sattar Lafta, the head of the Association to Commemorate Religious Rituals, the courses do not just teach women about the faith but also inoculates them against extremist ideas.

"Terrorists would not be able to recruit young people if their mothers were politically and religiously aware," he said. "It is the mothers who spend most of the time with their children and not the fathers."

Shia Islam, for example, places many more restrictions on the declaration of holy war than Sunnism. The course's organisers hope the students will learn to be sceptical of declarations of jihad from radical preachers.

The lessons also deal with contemporary politics and practical matters - discussing systems by which residents of a neighborhood can organise waste disposal, or the importance of telling children not to pick up suspicious objects from the streets, in case they're bombs.

College graduates, students and even illiterate women attend Talaqani's classes. "The illiterate ones are the most eager," she said. They are allowed to take their exams orally, though some insist on trying to write. [...]

Like the classes, the sermons have a strong political dimension. "We are against everyone who wants to harm this country," Talaqani told the audience in her inaugural talk two weeks ago. She spelled out who she considers as the main enemy of the new Iraq, "We will fight the Ba'athists and the Wahabis."

She condemned the recent suicide attacks against the police stations in Baghdad, and ridiculed the perpetrators for considering themselves martyrs after killing themselves and innocent Iraqis.

The sermon closed with chants of "God is Great" and "Death to Saddam".

Well, that last chant worked, let's hope the rest does too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 16, 2003 8:08 PM
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