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Cablegate: Dart Report On Muslim Fundamentalism in Iraq

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KUWAIT 002298

SIPDIS

STATE ALSO PASS USAID/W
STATE PLEASE REPEAT TO IO COLLECTIVE
STATE FOR PRM/ANE, EUR/SE, NEA/NGA, IO AND SA/PAB
NSC FOR EABRAMS, SMCCORMICK, STAHIR-KHELI, JDWORKEN
USAID FOR USAID/A, DCHA/AA, DCHA/RMT, DCHA/FFP
USAID FOR DCHA/OTI, DCHA/DG, ANE/AA
USAID FOR DCHA/OFDA:WGARVELINK, BMCCONNELL, KFARNSWORTH
USAID FOR ANE/AA:WCHAMBERLIN
ROME FOR FODAG
GENEVA FOR RMA AND NKYLOH
ANKARA FOR AMB WRPEARSON, ECON AJSIROTIC AND DART
AMMAN FOR USAID AND DART

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREF IZ WFP
SUBJECT: DART REPORT ON MUSLIM FUNDAMENTALISM IN IRAQ


-------
SUMMARY
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1. This is a DART report. Muslim fundamentalists are among
the groups maneuvering for power in southern Iraq,
traditionally the most conservative region of the country.
Some conservative Muslims are threatening and harassing the
country's Christian minority and instigating reprisals
against former Ba'ath Party members. End Summary.

2. This cable is a DART report. A woman in Al Amarah cried
as she recounted to the DART how a group of young Muslim men
shouted insults and spat upon her while she was shopping at
the market earlier this month because she was not wearing
the hijab. Although the woman and her sister are both
members of the country's Christian minority, they now wear
the hijab in public to avoid harassment and intimidation.
She said her family had lived for several generations in Al
Amarah without incident, and complained that the security
situation was worse now than under the former regime.

3. In central Basrah, two large banners, with quotes from
Shia Muslim imams advising women to observe conservative
Muslim ways, have been hung above a pedestrian bridge
spanning a canal. One banner reads: "Muslim Sisters: Do
not wear a lot of make-up in front of foreign men because it
cheapens you in their eyes." Another one says: "Your
Islamic hijab is the emblem of a Zeinab-like woman." (Note:
Zeinab was the daughter of Ali, the prophet Mohammed's
cousin and son-in-law. End Note.) The banners have
prompted some Iraqi women who favor Western-style clothing
to feel uneasy about the implied warnings, and to wear the
hijab now even though they did not do so before the war.

4. Conservative Shias are also condoning attacks on former
Ba'ath Party members. A flyer pasted onto a defaced mural
of Saddam Hussein in central Basrah by the Iranian-backed
political party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic
Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), urges Iraqis to live together in
peace and not to kill each other, unless a Ba'ath Party
member tries to seize power. The poster strongly implied
that killing a Ba'ath party member who tried to seize power
would be justified. In Umm Qasr, a hand-written poster at
the central market said that anyone who "dared" to get
involved in upcoming elections for the local town council,
especially any former Ba'ath Party members, would be in
trouble. The poster was signed "Umm Qasr Youth".

5. The SCIRI has taken possession of large hotels or
abandoned Iraqi government buildings in towns and cities
across the south. In Basrah, a three-story building,
stretching the length of a city block, has been taken over,
with a huge sign identifying it as the party's headquarters.
In Qurna, a hotel built at the confluence of the Tigris and
Euphrates rivers now serves as the group's headquarters.

6. A shopkeeper selling fruit drinks at the central market
in Al Kut proudly displays several large posters at his
stand with photos of well-known Shia Muslim leaders,
including one of Iran's late Ayatollah Khomeini. Across the
south, paintings and posters of the SCIRI Shia leader,
Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim, and other Muslim religious
leaders, have begun to appear on walls or have taken the
place of large Saddam Hussein murals at the entrance to
cities and major government buildings. (Note: Ayatollah
Hakim returned to Iraq in mid-May after spending 23 years in
exile in Iran. End Note.)

7. A hotel manager in Basrah said Shia Muslim
fundamentalists stormed into Christian-owned shops in early
May, threatening the owners that their shops would be bombed
if they did not stop selling Iraqi-made beer and other
alcoholic beverages on the black market. According to
Coalition sources, presumed Muslim fundamentalists later
shot and killed three shop owners who had ignored the
threats. The word on the streets is that a number of
Christians in Basrah are so afraid they may flee to Mosul in
northern Iraq.

8. The Iranian-backed al-Badr Brigade has encouraged the
formation of armed "punishment committees" in Al Kut that
are behind a series of attacks against suspected former
Ba'ath Party members. The sources say suspected al-Badr
Brigade members shot and killed a police captain and a
teacher in mid-May for alleged ties to the former regime.
Also, several hand grenades were tossed into the empty house
of a former Ba'ath party member in late May, causing
extensive damage but no injuries. Coalition forces
overseeing security in Al Kut have reported similar grenade
attacks recently.

9. In An Nasiriyah, conservative Muslim clerics wielded
their political clout in April to engineer the dismissal of
middle managers of hospitals and clinics throughout Dhi Qar
Governorate and to replace them with more `religious'
directors. Coalition military sources say the
fundamentalists apparently wanted to ensure that male
physicians and other male health care practitioners did not
see female patients, under a strict interpretation of the
Quran.

10. Many town councils in southern Iraq have established
religious departments or committees led by Shia clerics. In
some cases, the imams have been given a seat on the council
itself. Coalition forces warn that conservative Shia
Muslims, supported by Iran, are trying to influence public
opinion in the south against the United States and the
Coalition. The sources say the strategy appears more
effective in smaller towns and villages where traditionally
there has been less of a Western influence and less post-war
humanitarian assistance from the Coalition.

11. The social and political dynamic in southern Iraq
presents special challenges to the U.S-led interim
administration, which must balance the need to ensure
religious freedom and expression for the majority Shia
population while at the same time mitigate fundamentalists'
influence and efforts to promote further unrest among
Iraqis. Iraqis in the south are increasingly impatient over
continuing insecurity and the pace of the restoration of
government services. Until they see tangible improvements
in their lives since regime change, there is a danger that
hearts and minds will be swayed by conservative Muslim
influences.

JONES

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