I’m wondering where the outrage is, and finally I see that Muslims are offended by the desecration of holy sites by other Muslims, if not by Muslim-on-Muslim violence. I’m glad to see the Shi’ah of Najaf are rising up against those who would take their (Najafi) Islam and use it for their own (non-Najafi) purposes.
Imam Ali (PBUH) was the son-in-law and cousin of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). He is regarded by the Shi’ah as being the heir to both temporal and spiritual authority of the Islamic community. He was martyred because he tried to peacefully end the first civil war in Islam, the insurrection of Mu’awiyyah. His son, Imam Husayn (PBUH), was slaughtered by General Yazid. The Beloved of the Beloved of God was trying to use peaceful means to re-claim his authority, when he was denied water and watched as his small band of followers, including women and children, were slaughtered.
An iconography (like the five pillars defining Islam, Islam as an anti-figural religion is just a load of ignorance passed off as quick and easy learning) has developed around the figures of the Shi’i Imams, particularly Imams Ali, Hasan and Husayn (PBUT). The Revealer has a good piece to supplement Aziz’s description of how Sadr is utilizing the visual image. (The Revealer also has a good piece today on why so many reporters are missing the important points in Iraq.) I do take exception to the reference of the art as cheesy. I have two posters of Imam Ali with his two sons (PBUT), but I have them for their kitsch value.
Most of every report outside of the mainstream news outlets, particularly those with contacts on the ground, is talking about how Sadr is losing legitimacy amongst the masses, and that he never had it amongst the local scholarly class. However, the danger remains that by violating the sacred space of Najaf, the US troops might end up generating support for him.
I’m hoping this reporting enters more mainstream discourse for two reasons. One, to make sure Americans do understand the situation on the ground in Iraq, and that the political solution that is being decried by CNN (TV not web) is in the long-term interests of the US and the soldiers in Iraq. Two, to make it easier for other Muslims to speak out against the injustices being committed in their names. We need to be outraged, and not be afraid, and hopefully seeing others stand up for Islam will allow others to do so.