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Muslims for the War By: Stephen Schwartz
New York Post | Wednesday, April 28, 2004


American media and politicians rush to declare failure for the transformation of Iraq. "Sunni" atrocities in Fallujah -- backed by young Saudis incited by the kingdom's Wahhabi cult to go north to the Iraqi border to kill and die in the jihad against the Coalition -- and the manipulations of the Shi'a upstart Muqtada al-Sadr are treated by many in the West as the sole expression of Iraqi people facing the future.

Shi'a Muslims living in the greater New York area have a different message. They're grateful the Coalition forces liberated the shrines of Karbala and Najaf from the dictatorship of Saddam, and they look forward to modern and democratic governance in Iraq. They keep close contact with the Iraqi Shi'a leadership on the ground in the holy cities, and may be useful in defeating extremist attempts to sabotage the Iraq effort.

Last week Nawab Agha, president of the American Muslim Congress -- a group that includes many Iraqi Shi'as living in America -- made public a "blanket endorsement of the United States government's mission to ensure democracy in Iraq and of the United States' continual stay in Iraq for as long as needed to ensure stability and democracy."

The statement of the Congress (a group not to be confused with the American Muslim Council, backed by Saudi money via imprisoned bagman Abdurrahman Alamoudi) emphasized "the assumption that the United States government will work for the rapid Iraqization of the government at the earliest possible time."

But the American Muslim Congress more forcefully stressed that its members are "saddened by the deaths of our servicemen and women in Iraq and the deaths of the innocent Iraqi people, including the children," while they "believe that the United States' continued presence in Iraq offers the best hope for democracy."

Their statement contrasted sharply with those of "Wahhabi lobby" groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which has joined its voice to those of the leftist and isolationist protestors demanding an end to the Coalition's presence in Iraq.

The American Muslim Congress described America's "dream in Iraq" as "both noble and breathtakingly innovative." But it warned that "it is because of the preciousness of this dream and the possible effects of a democratic Iraq that the reactionary forces are fighting so hard and so viciously."

The same group recommended that the United States work with the Iraqi Shi'a majority against Sadr's conspiracy, and denounced him as "bring[ing] nothing but shame on the Shi'a community by his actions."

Echoing the Congress' courageous position are comments of one of the New York area's most prominent Shi'a intellectuals, Dr. Masood Ali Mirza.

Mirza noted his own victimization under Saddam: "I was held hostage together with my wife and daughter, and made a 'human shield' by Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf War. Thanks to President Bush and Prime Minister Blair and the brave soldiers of the Coalition forces, Iraq finally got rid of Saddam. Eradication of terrorism from the world has begun and the center stage for it is in Iraq."

Mirza described Sadr as "a hot-headed, illiterate hoodlum, despised both by the revered ayatollahs of Iraq and by more than 200 million Shi'as worldwide."

But he also touchingly related the killing of some Americans in Iraq to the deaths that began the epic struggle of Shi'a Islam 1,300 years ago: "The murder and desecration of the four civilian contractors hung from the bridge over the Euphrates River was committed in the spirit of those who ruthlessly murdered the Prophet Muhammad's grandson Imam Hussain, and his family, on the banks of the same river."

New energies are visible and audible in Shi'a Islam. They support the Coalition. It only requires a commitment to truth and the ability of politicians and media to listen for them to be understood and for their aid to be appreciated.


Stephen Schwartz, an author and journalist, is author of The Two Faces of Islam: The House of Sa'ud from Tradition to Terror. A vociferous critic of Wahhabism, Schwartz is a frequent contributor to National Review, The Weekly Standard, and other publications.


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