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Iraqis Chant No Bush, No Saddam, Yes Islam
Tens of thousands of Iraqis, both Sunnis and Shiites, joined hands in massive demonstrations in Baghdad after the first Friday prayers since the fall of the capital, demanding an end to the Anglo-American occupation of their country. Chanting anti-American slogans, the protestors called for establishing an Islamic regime to replace Saddam Hussein's deposed government, terminating the occupation and safeguarding the unity of the country.
Iraqis Chant No Bush, No Saddam, Yes Islam
April 18, 2003
Iraqi demonstrators carry an anti-Bush and anti-Saddam banner
Iraqi demonstrators carry anti-American military messages as they march after Friday prayers at the Abu-Hanifa mosque in Baghdad Friday
Iraqi Muslims shout slogans against Anglo-American occupation of their country following Friday prayers at Abu Hanifa mosque in Baghdad
BAGHDAD, April 18 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) - Tens of thousands of Iraqis, both Sunnis and Shiites, joined hands in massive demonstrations in Baghdad after the first Friday prayers since the fall of the capital, demanding an end to the Anglo-American occupation of their country.
Chanting anti-American slogans, the protestors called for establishing an Islamic regime to replace Saddam Hussein's deposed government, terminating the occupation and safeguarding the unity of the country.
In their preaches, imams of Baghdad’s hundreds of mosques warned against the installation of a U.S.-styled democracy in the predominantly Muslim state, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
"This is not the America we know. The America we know respects international law, respects the right of people," Islamic scholar Ahmed al-Kubaisi told the massive worshippers in Imam Abu Hanifa mosque in Baghdad.
Accusing the United States of launching the war in support of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Kubaisi called for forming a Council of Shiite and Sunni scholars to see whether the would-be Iraqi administration should be approved or not.
The masses poured out of the mosque, carrying copies of the holy Koran and waving banners that read "No to America, No to Secular state. Yes to Islamic State."
"Leave our country, we want peace," one banner read.
Leading the angry demonstrators, Kubaisi said Iraqis had been betrayed by Saddam, who has disappeared along with most of his government members.
"Saddam was the one who betrayed his people and ignored them and escaped," he said.
But Abu Dhabi television broadcasted what it described as the last footage of Saddam waving to a cheering crowd in Baghdad on 9 April, the day U.S. tanks rolled into the Iraqi capital.
The footage, if authentic, is thought to be a conclusive a proof that Saddam did not strike a deal with the U.S. forces to leave Baghdad without a fight in return for leaving the country safely as many have speculated.
The demonstration served notice of the hostility that the United States, which has appointed a retired American general to lead an interim administration in Iraq, is likely to face from sectors of the influential Muslim clergy.
The BBC correspondent said there was a tense confrontation earlier when an American patrol stumbled into a crowd kneeling outside a mosque.
The worshippers surged forward angrily, but the U.S. commander skillfully withdrew his troops and defused the situation.
The occupation troops had entered the area of the mosque allegedly to distribute humanitarian aid, said the correspondent at the scene, adding that it is the biggest demonstration of Arab nationalism since the end of the war and shows what powerful sentiments the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq has stirred up.
Spirits were high at the Al-Hikma mosque in the poor Shiite Muslim suburb of Sadr City, formerly Saddam City, where some 50,000 worshipers jammed the mosque and surrounding streets patrolled by Kalashnikov-wielding guards.
Sheikh Mohammed Fartusi did not name the United States in his sermon.
But he said the Shiites, who constitute a majority in the northern suburb, would not accept a brand of democracy "that allows Iraqis to say what they want but gives them no say in their destiny.
"This form of government would be worse than that of Saddam Hussein," he told the first Friday prayers to be held at the mosque since the 1999 riots sparked by the assassination of the imam, Mohammed Sadeq Sadr.
Fartusi urged the faithful to follow the dictates of the Shiite "Hawza," the council of senior clergymen, AFP reported.
No major incidents were reported in the Friday prayers, held as Iraqis were still trying to find their footing under U.S. occupation in a chaotic post-war environment.
Initially gave a cautious welcome to the U.S. troops who took over Baghdad nine days ago, Iraqis have been increasingly critical of the failure to quickly restore order and basic services such as water and electricity.
Political jockeying is also intensifying with scores of parties elbowing for position, self-proclaimed governors and mayors floating through the landscape and U.S. military officials keeping a tight lid on events.
"Faith Of Islam"
Tens of thousands of Shiites were also expected in the holy city of Karbala, one of their holiest shrines, 80 kilometers (50 miles) southwest of Baghdad, to mark the death of Imam Hussein, grandson of prophet Muhammad, in battle in the year 680 AD.
The commemoration, which will culminate Tuesday, April 15, will also provide an opportunity for the Shiites to flex their new political muscle.
Sheikh Kaazem al-Abahadi al-Nasari told thousands of worshippers at Hussein's mausoleum, "We reject this foreign occupation, which is a new imperialism. We don't want it anymore."
"We don't need the Americans. They're here to control our oil. They're unbelievers, but as for us, we have the power of faith."
The head of the Supreme Assembly of Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the Iran-based Shiite group, has also called for "a political regime guaranteeing liberty, independence and justice for all Iraqis under the reign of Islam."
Only a small group of the Iraqis turned out for Friday prayers last week, with looters and vandals roaming the streets two days after Saddam's rule crumbled under the pressure of a three-week U.S. military offensive that also say ferocious and stiffer-than-expected resistance and higher-than-anticipated death toll in the U.S.-led forces.
Since then, anger has grown on the streets of Baghdad where power has been out for two weeks, most shops still closed and hospitals overwhelmed with large numbers of wounded and lack of drugs.
The protests on the Muslim holy day came as regional states gathered in Saudi Arabia to weigh a response to the Iraq war.
On Wednesday, April 16, scores of Iraqi Shiites shouted their rejection of the U.S. military presence in front of American marines deployed around Baghdad's Palestine Hotel.
"Down with America," chanted the 200-odd protesters led by clerics, including one with the black turban usually worn by descendants of Islam's Prophet Mohammed.
"We want real freedom" and "The Iraqi people themselves must choose their rulers," read two of the banners raised by the protesters. Marines kept reporters at bay.