11/16/2004

Desecration

via Laura, I came across Jeanne's reaction to a photo of American soldiers occupying a Falluja masjid. She calls it a desecration, and asks herself how she'd feel if it were her church. I can probably shed some light on the question - were it MY masjid, I'd be angry indeed. Then again, that's because in MY masjid, in Houston USA, we do not as a rule store bombs, weapons caches, or fire upon police from the minaret. So, the presence of American soldiers in MY masjid would be cause for great anger, yes.

However, what makes me genuinely furious, rather than merely angry, is the desecration of another masjid illustrated at right. The militia of Muqtada Sadr occupied the Kufa masjid, the site of the martyrdom of Imam Ali As himself, and used it for their crude and clumsy political ends. And it happened in MY masjid, too - the Kufa masjid was renovated (under UNESCO's auspices) with contributions from Dawoodi Bohra muslims around the world, including my family's. The Kufa masjid is an icon of my faith and part of the fabric of my community's practices and traditions - and history. Where is the outrage?

Oh yes, there certainly are desecrations of masjids to be angered about. But the desecration of the masjid that Jeanne speaks about happenned well before the soldiers arrived there.

In fact, perhaps it is cleansing in some way for that masjid to now host the forces of liberation rather than oppression.

UPDATE: Bill Allison finds a link I'd meant to add as context for this post but had lost - as usual we are on much the same wavelength. Excerpt:

As US and Iraqi troops mopped up the last vestiges of resistance in the city after a week of bombardment and fighting, residents who stayed on through last week's offensive were emerging and telling harrowing tales of the brutality they endured.

Flyposters still litter the walls bearing all manner of decrees from insurgent commanders, to be heeded on pain of death. Amid the rubble of the main shopping street, one decree bearing the insurgents' insignia - two Kalashnikovs propped together - and dated November 1 gives vendors three days to remove nine market stalls from outside the city's library or face execution.

The pretext given is that the rebels wanted to convert the building into a headquarters for the "Mujahidin Advisory Council" through which they ran the city.

Another poster in the ruins of the souk bears testament to the strict brand of Sunni Islam imposed by the council, fronted by hardline cleric Abdullah Junabi. The decree warns all women that they must cover up from head to toe outdoors, or face execution by the armed militants who controlled the streets.

Two female bodies found yesterday suggest such threats were far from idle. An Arab woman, in a violet nightdress, lay in a post-mortem embrace with a male corpse in the middle of the street. Both bodies had died from bullets to the head.


Much of the offense taken by Muslims about the sanctity of mosques is almost transparently situational. I think that we muslims who have the good fortune to live in a place like Houston, rather than one like Falluja, have an obligation towards perspective. If there is self-deception, I believe it to be unintentional, and the blame can largely be placed at the feet of the false concept of Dar ul-Islam as a trans-national entity to which muslims should show some kind of allegiance. Clearly, in the case of Fallujah, membership in Dar ul-Islam is not something any western muslim would tolerate, having grown used to liberty.

Oh, and as for the template, I'm working on it :) You won't recognize the place, trust me, after I'm done...

3 comments:

Uzer S. said...

Forgive me for my ignorance, but it seems youre inter-relating different things. The picture of the "jihadis" are most likely there because they want to fight the americans out of the country. Are you for the presence of Americans in Iraq or against? Considering the humanitarian disaster they are causing over there, should not something be done about it? Should the Iraqis simply give up and hand over their country to illegal invaders? I understand that negotiations must be attempted and pursued as a primary course of action but, again forgive me for my political ignorance, hasn't that already failed. Aren't the Americans there to stay unless forcefully evicted?

I am against the fanatical brand of Islam being implemented by these Mujahid organizations. I am not against standing up for the defense of your country and the dignity of your people. No doubt you know of the execution perpetrated by the American marine and The Lancet's report on civilian deaths due to violence in Iraq.

Jazzak Allah for your time,

Wassalamu Alaikum

Aziz Poonawalla said...

Uzer, the presence of teh Americans there could also be construed as fighting on behalf of Iraq. The political argument of aims is irrelevant to whether a mosque is being desecrated.

The desecration of a mosque occurs when one side uses it as a military installation, not a place of worship. Having done that, the mosque is no longer protected. It is violated.

The jihadis, or freedom fighters, or whatever you want to call them, use mosques as amunition dumps. They fire upon soldiers from its minarets. They booby-trap nearby schools and use the mosque as the trigger-point.

In comparison, the Americans have secured a military target. It may have once been a mosque. But it wasn't the American soldiers who changed its status by their actions.

Uzer S. said...

"The desecration of a mosque occurs when one side uses it as a military installation, not a place of worship. Having done that, the mosque is no longer protected. It is violated."

Agreed.

"The jihadis, or freedom fighters, or whatever you want to call them, use mosques as amunition dumps. They fire upon soldiers from its minarets. They booby-trap nearby schools and use the mosque as the trigger-point.

In comparison, the Americans have secured a military target. It may have once been a mosque. But it wasn't the American soldiers who changed its status by their actions."

I believe you are correct in pointing out the desecration of the mosque by the so-called jihadis. I don't think that mosques should be used as ammunition dumps nor as bunkers. However, no jihadi is perfect, so to speak. There are bound to be people who will not adhere to this ruling and you can guarantee that the spin-doctors will use this to their advantage. Probably in the same way we have been using America's enormous level of civilian "collateral damage". They are both undeniable but only part of the story. What it boils down to is that the Americans are not wanted in the country and their will always be resistance in whatever form.

I suppose the argument of whether the Americans are desecrating the pictured mosque or not is moot. It all simply boils down to whether one agrees with the US presence in Iraq or not. If you could present a brief summary of your views on the issue it would greatly incrase my knowledge. Do you think the US was correct in invading Iraq? If so, do you really believe that they had nothing but the good of Iraq at heart? If not, do you think Iraq would be better off under Saddam? Considering the current situation and the prevalant opinion against American presence, do you think they should leave? If not, won't their continued presence result in more bloodshed - Should their way of law be imposed on the Iraqis? If you believe they should leave, do you think they will be leaving a job unfinished irresponsibly?

I apologize if I seem pretentious in presenting these loaded questions to you.

Jazzak Allahu Khair for your time.

Wassalamu Alaikum,
Uzer