Thursday, August 10, 2006

Today's Bombing in An-Najaf

A cold shiver runs down my spine whenever I hear of a bombing in either an-Najaf or Karbala. Both cities are considered to be amongst the holiest places on earth by the Shia. Najaf is dedicated to Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib and is where his grave is located. It's difficult to understate the scale of violence that would occur were it to be damaged.


More information on Najaf's significance can be found in these two postings:'The Significance of the Car bombing in Najaf' and 'Family Outing' - mfiTomb of Imam AliNajaf's significance comes from it being the site of Ali- ibn Abi- Ta-lib's tomb. The Shia consider him to be the first lawful ima-m and the first righteous caliph. The city is a tremendously important pilgrimage centre - only Mecca and Medina receive more pilgrims. While the overwhelming majority of these pilgrims are Shia it is important to note that the Sunni revere Imam Ali as the last of the rashidun ("rightly guided caliphs") and that both Najaf and Karbala receive Sunni pilgrims.Najaf is renowned as a centre for scientific, literary and theological studies throughout the Islamic world (mainly but not exclusively for the Shia) and is one of the centres of study of the Shia fiqh "school of faith." As such it has a large number of hospices, schools, libraries, colleges, and seminaries. Saddam Hussein had a policy of deliberately denigrating Najaf and many of these institutions were badly damaged as an act of policy by his regime. The most notorious example being driving a highway right through the middle of the Wa-di-'u s-Sala-m. From a political point of view Najaf's significance can't be overstated, Ayatollah Ali- al-Hussayni- as-Si-sta-ni- studied in Najaf and is based there.

Composite graphic showing dead and wounded childrenThere can be no doubt whatsoever that this latest bombing is not so much terrorism as something even worse. This bombing like the Samara bombing, previous attacks on Najaf, the Kufa bombing, can only be described as being inspired by nihilism. It's a deliberate and calculated attempt to drag not only Iraq but the surrounding countries into all out sectarian war. Initial reporting is fairly restrained but there can be no doubt that the bombing will cause massive outrage particularly as scenes such as those seen to the left showing injured children and babies being treated for wounds, and distraught parents mourning their dead and mutilated children are being widely broadcast on TV throughout the entire region. It remains to be seen whether the Grand Ayatollahs already deeply concerned that their ability to restrain their followers is slipping will succeed in holding them back one more time. Should they fail the bloodbath created by the American occupation's policies in Iraq will pale into insignificance.


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