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Thursday, February 23, 2006 

The destruction of everything is the beginning of something new.

Yesterday's attack on the Al-Askari Mosque in Samarra was an attack not just on Shia Islam, but all of Islam. Most likely carried out by Wahabbis, probably the so-called al-Qaida in Iraq, it was the equivalent of pouring petrol onto a bonfire. Sectarian tensions in Iraq have been festering for years, with the Shia overcoming their suppression under Saddam to come out on top in the elections carried out under occupation. While the majority of the insurgency is carried out by disenfranchised Sunnis and ex-Baathists, there is also a significant minority of jihadists out to martyr themselves. It is likely the latter which carried out the attack, not Sunnis. Those who claim to be acting in the name of Islam should now be exposed for their almost unbelievable act of vandalism.

From an aesthetic point of view, the destruction of the mosque is horrifying. While we can admire the architecture of many of the churches in west, there are very few which you could describe as beautiful. The Al-Askari mosque was undoubtedly a thing of beauty, and also of hope for many. For it to be destroyed by terrorists whose wish is to provoke a civil war is a crime against every person in Iraq.

While Moqtada al-Sadr and Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani have both called for calm and peaceful demonstration, both have ulterior motives with al-Sadr's militia most likely to blame for many of the revenge attacks which have already taken place. al-Sistani has also mentioned that he will gather and use a militia to protect holy sites if the government cannot do it. The last thing that Iraq needs is more militias, but such a move by Sistani would reinforce his power which has been ebbing slightly to the upstart and more radical al-Sadr.

Looking at the situation from the west, the most sad thing about this is that it will likely result in British and American troops having to stay even longer in a country which is turning increasingly more hostile to them as the days pass. While now is not the time to blame the US and UK for invading and causing the whole mess, that we broke a land that was mostly secular and turned it into a country where it seems sectarian warfare is moments away from breaking must rank up there with some of the biggest mistakes and tragedies of our time. What now needs to be done is for the religious leaders on both sides to come together and stop the revenge from spiraling out of control. If they don't, Iraq could become the equivalent of Somalia.

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