Moqtada al-Sadr

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Moqtada al-Sadr (also spelled Moktada al-Sadr and Muqtada al-Sadr) is a 32-year old "Shiite cleric from a poor neighborhood of Baghdad who has long opposed the U.S. occupation of Iraq. He draws much of his popularity from the reverence many Iraqi Shiites feel toward his father, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq Sadr, who was assassinated in 1999, allegedly by Saddam Hussein loyalists." [1]

"After U.S. troops shut down Sadr's weekly newspaper on March 28 [2004] for publishing inflammatory articles about the U.S. occupation, Sadr unleashed demonstrations and armed strikes against the U.S. occupation authority. In the ensuing fighting, dozens of U.S. soldiers and scores of Iraqis were killed." [2] [3]

"Six months [earlier], Iraqi law enforcement concluded that Sadr was involved in the April 2003 killing of a rival cleric, who was hacked to death by a mob in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf. After the uprising began, the U.S. announced that an arrest warrant had been issued for Sadr last fall." [4] [5]

Profiles

Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr was profiled April 5, 2004 by Mark Oliver in the Guardian Unlimited (UK). Oliver wrote that the "30-year-old firebrand Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is known to his followers as 'al-Sayed', or 'master'. Coalition officials speak of him with less reverence.

"Sadr's father, a religious leader, was shot dead in 1999, allegedly by Saddam Hussein's henchmen, but he has little affection for the US-led coalition who deposed the dictator, and he is virulently against the occupation.
"Today Sadr was effectively branded an outlaw by Paul Bremer, the top US official in Iraq, after being blamed for provoking the wave of violence yesterday in four Iraqi cities that left around 50 Iraqis and nine coalition soldiers dead. [See Shiite Muslim uprising in Iraq for details.]
"The violence erupted out of demonstrations called for by Sadr after one of his aides was arrested on Saturday. The protests were also couched in annoyance that Sadr's newspaper was closed down on March 28 amid claims it was inciting violence.
"Sadr has in the past claimed to have a 10,000-strong militia and yesterday reports suggested there were some 5,000 black-shirted men marching near Najaf, which is 100 miles south of Baghdad.
"Sadr's headquarters are in Najaf and the armed wing of his organisation, the Mehdi Army, has been playing an increasingly high-profile role there and in Baghdad and Kerbala. ...
"But it is important not to overstate his influence. Many Shia are opposed to the idea of militancy when they are likely to get a great deal of power anyway in coalition-backed elections.
"Few Shia Muslims are in a mood to approve the idea of an armed confrontation with the highly respected Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani, who is the most powerful Shia leader in Iraq, and who is, for the most part, engaging with the coalition timetable for elections.
"The Mehdi Army also damaged its popularity in some quarters after clashes last October [2003] with other Shia factions.
"At around the same time, Shia militants clashed for the first time with US troops in Baghdad. At that time the coalition was relieved that Sadr did not call for an armed struggle directly. But his statement was clear about wanting the troops out. 'I advise these occupying forces to schedule their prompt withdrawal from Iraq,' Sadr said.
"What he wants is a government which would respect Sharia, or Islamic, law. His opinions on how it might be formed, can vary. ... Last year he spoke of having a government with ministers but then changed this to one that emerged 'from the people', not through elections but 'mass demonstrations'. ...
"The Shia are the powerful Muslim majority in Iraq and they have largely avoided violence with the Americans. Saddam Hussein was a Sunni Muslim and the Shia were suppressed under his regime. The occupying forces already have a serious security problem with Sunni insurgents and will not relish the prospect of any increasing Shia militancy."

Note: It is worth remembering that 'Syed' is the standard term of address for a person who is directly descended from the Prophet. ... Also, although the media fail to grasp this fact, Moqtada is not a cleric but a student. He has not finished his studies at the Hawza.

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