Sunni and Shi'ite Clerics Resolve to Maintain Unity Despite Attacks

March 30, 2004

Source: The Washington Post

On March 30, 2004 The Washington Post reported, "Nominally divided by ethnicity, tribe and -- most precariously of late -- religion, Iraqis insist those distinctions are secondary to an overarching sense of shared national identity. It is a robust self-image, anchored by traditions as intimate as marriage but tested in recent weeks by scenes as bloody as the one illuminated by a muzzle flash outside [a] mosque...Dhamir Dhari, a Sunni Muslim imam, answered his door on the evening of Feb. 21 and found assassins on his doorstep. His death at the hands of the two unknown men was but one in a rash of mysterious attacks on clerics and mosques here in recent weeks, striking Sunnis and Shiites alike. The attacks, numbering more than a dozen over a two-week period this month, have been answered with resolute declarations of unity from leading Shiite and Sunni clerics, who meet regularly to devise a joint strategy for maintaining calm. Adamant in refusing to blame the rival branch of Islam, the religious leaders are instructing preachers of Friday sermons to assure worshipers that the attacks are being carried out by terrorists and shadowy foreign elements intent on provoking a civil war. 'They do these things so the Shiites will accuse the Sunnis and the Sunnis accuse the Shiites,' said Qasim Janabi, who owns a restaurant near the Kubeisi mosque, where a Sunni cleric was shot on March 7 and his replacement was gunned down two days later. 'But in Iraq we are all one people.'"