Friday, April 11, 2003

Freedom to worship, at last

While the Sadiq mosque remained open until a year ago, residents said that government agents occupied the adjacent building. "They would send spies to listen and take revenge if someone spoke out of line," Hammad said.Sheik Sabah al-Saady was only a boy in 1991. "But I witnessed the events and I remember," he said.Now, as a young imam, he was chosen to address today's gathering. Many of Basra's older clerics have been killed or gone into exile, leaving younger men like Sheik Sabah to lead.Surrounded by bodyguards, he spoke to the crowd over loudspeakers that sent his voice echoing through the old and battered concrete alleyways in the neighborhood. He exhorted the men to put aside tribal differences and work together to rebuild their country.He also scolded those who participated in the recent looting that further destroyed an already beaten-down city. He said such behavior was forbidden in Islam.