From hilly Zarqa and nearby Salt, from Cairo, Damascus and distant points, young Arab fighters have slipped across the desert and into Iraq. If that shattered land plunges into a religious war of Sunni against Shiite, will these ranks of foreign volunteers swell further?
Some here in his hometown hope more will follow Iraq’s most notorious volunteer, Abu Mussab Zarqawi. But many hope not.
“We”re all Muslims. We shouldn’t fight each other,” townsman Abu Salah, 50, told a reporter as he rushed into Friday prayers recently at the drab storefront Mosque of Omar, wedged between shops in the shadows of a narrow downtown street.
A curbside perfume peddler listening in said many young men from Zarqa have gone over the border to join the anti-U.S. insurgency. “But if it’s civil war, they won’t get involved,” said Ashraf Abu Abdullah. “Instead, we in Jordan should help resolve it.”
Hundreds of men were shedding their shoes for the service. A Sunni sheik’s sermon blared from the mosque loudspeaker, an earsplitting screed against belly dancing on satellite television. As the faithful spread prayer rugs on the sidewalk, a young man approached, wearing the full beard of a devout Muslim.
“Yes, lots have gone in already,” the long-robed Abdullah told the visitor, giving only his first name. “If there’s civil war, lots more will go.”
Why? he was asked. It’s simple, he said: “For God.“
An all-out civil war in Iraq could further inflame Sunni extremists elsewhere. More militants among Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi sect, who practice an austere and radical brand of Islam, might try to aid Iraq’s minority Sunnis.