Al-Sadr: Islamic purity through fear
While they’re talking of enslaving the opposition, Shi’ite leaders are intimidating their own people. Note that alcohol vendors have been gunned down, in accord with laws that restrict dhimmis from displaying alcohol (or pork, or crosses, etc.). From Knight-Ridder:
BASRA, Iraq – Given the choice, Rana al Asadi wouldn’t wear a head scarf. But a few weeks ago, the 22-year-old English major at Basra University decided she didn’t have that choice anymore.
Menacing groups of men have been stopping cars at the university gates and haranguing women whose heads are uncovered, accusing them of violating Islamic law. Male students have accosted them as they walked to class. As al Asadi spoke to a reporter in a courtyard, a scruffy-looking man handed out fliers that likened uncovered women to prostitutes and murderers.
“I fear them,” she said simply.
Shiite Muslim religious extremists, backed by armed militias, are waging a campaign of intimidation to enforce a strict Islamic code of conduct in Iraq’s second largest city. Neither the Iraqi police nor the British military forces that occupy Basra seem willing or able to stop it.
While there are no known cases of women being attacked for not covering up, three alcohol vendors and two bystanders were gunned down in February, the latest in a string of such assaults. A few weeks ago, gunmen pumped six bullets into a woman who ran a shop that sold romantic videos.
On the streets of Basra, a Shiite stronghold of 1.4 million people near the Kuwait border, the message has been received. In a port city that was once known for its nightclubs, it’s now nearly impossible to buy an alcoholic drink. Head scarves are almost universal now at the university.
Basra, which gets far less attention from Western news media than Baghdad does, largely has been seen as a success, mainly because there have been far fewer attacks on the British troops who patrol here than on U.S. troops farther north.
But the effectiveness of the campaign by religious extremists raises questions about whether freedoms of expression and religion – newly enshrined in Iraq’s interim constitution – will survive in the Shiite-dominated south after the coalition returns authority to Iraqis this summer.
“We believe that we are the supreme legislative authority in Iraq, because our constitution is the holy Quran, and for us, the holy Quran is the supreme constitution,” said Sheik Abdul-Sattar al Bahadli, who runs the Basra office of hard-line Shiite leader Muqtada al Sadr, the son of a revered cleric whom Saddam Hussein had killed.
This fellow, who is saying here that he goes strictly by the Qur’an, is the same one who said it was just fine to enslave female soldiers.
Polls show Sadr has little support. But pictures of his father dot the landscape in southern Iraq, and in the absence of a sovereign government, groups such as his are among the best organized.
Al Bahadli said the Sadr organization performed charitable and community work in Basra. It also conducts armed patrols, he said. A few months ago, the group met with video merchants.
“We told them that Iraq is living under certain norms and tribal traditions. Before these meetings, there were violations of the Arab, Islamic morals. In particular, there were sexy films. And after these meetings there was a positive response in the marketplace.”
Video-sellers say it wasn’t gentle persuasion that made them stop selling soft-core films, but terror. In addition to the woman’s killing, merchants have been kidnapped and beaten. Al Bahadli said he renounces such tactics.
No arrests have been made in the religious killings, and an Iraqi police official said none were forthcoming.