Thursday, November 06, 2008

Iraq: cleric calls for dancing ban

'A cleric's call to ban partying and dancing in the Shiite holy city of Karbala has triggered a heated debate among residents, just when they had begun living without fear of hardline militias. In his Friday sermon, Sheikh Abdel Mahdi al-Karbalaie, the representative of revered Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called on residents of Karbala to put a halt to dancing, partying, listening to music loudly and displaying "provocative" women's garments in shops...

The call from Sheikh Karbalaie, aide of Ayatollah Sistani who is known as a moderate religious leader, has divided the local population, with many welcoming the sermons and others terming it an attempt to return to the "dark old days". During the former regime of Saddam Hussein, Iraq was known for its more secular lifestyle but after he was toppled in 2003 by invading US-led forces, local Shiite militias began enforcing a strict Islamic code of living. Attacks on shops selling music CDs, women's beauty products and dresses were common in Karbala as the militias, mainly loyal to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, became the city's new moral police. Sameer, a shopkeeper who used to sell women's dresses, recalls how one day militiamen stormed his shop and ordered him to put a veil even on the dummy of a model. "At that time there was a woman in my shop and she asked the militiamen why they didn't go and veil dummies of male models in other shops," said Sameer, who gave only his first name'.

Source: AFP 26 October 2008

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