Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Thursday, August 19, 2004

The hijacking of Najaf's Imam Ali mosque
Al Sadr's decision to hole up inside the Imam Ali mosque in Najaf, one of Islam's holiest sites, has brought months of careful thought from US leadership about how to proceed. On the one hand, you have the need to defeat a fiery cleric leading an army of Jihadist fighters against US and Iraqi fighters, and on the other the destruction or damage of a building with global consequences.

But what of Al Sadr's decision, and what of the Islamic world's response. We all know what the extremist bloc of the Muslim faith say, but what of the moderates? What do they think of an extremist that has essentially hijacked a holy shrine and doomed it to destruction in order to incite greater warfare against the West, and the US in particular? It seems sad that moderate Muslims do not seem to have an effective voice in the modern world, as their breath has been stolen by these extremist groups, keen to maximise the media coverage of their message and to disparage any moderates as weak believers. The result is that Al Sadr's decision to - by consequence - destroy a site holy to 1.3 billion Muslims globally is taken without any expressed consent by the majority of those followers.

So now, as the US is in the midst of direct action against the mosque (brought to bear by the Iraqi National Council, naturally, to weakly hide US involvement) and Al Sadr's embattled insurgents inside, the world will face the consequences. The extremist groups use the destruction of the Islamic holy site to frame this action as a holy war between Islam and Christianity, whilst moderate Muslims continue to be held accountable for their inaction, through fear or principle, in condemning this hijacking of their holy sites to benefit causes that are beyond the scope of their own spectrum of belief.