Friday, December 19, 2008
Muslim preachers from both sides of Iraq’s once-bloody Sunni-Shi’ite divide appealed to the government on Friday to release the journalist who threw his shoes at U.S. President George W. Bush.
The family of TV reporter Muntazer al-Zaidi, meanwhile, protested at an entrance to the heavily-fortified Green Zone in Baghdad where they believe he is being held in a hospital after being badly injured during his arrest.
At Baghdad’s main Shi’ite mosque, al-Kadhum, preacher Mohammed al-Shami leading Friday prayers demanded that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki free Zaidi.
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“We hold them responsible for his safety,” the preacher said. “They are responsible for his life, his health and psychological condition.”
At Baghdad’s main Sunni Arab mosque, preacher Abu-Hanifa asked Maliki for an explanation.
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“From this place we call on the prime minister and ask him, ‘Tell us why you have detained a person who made such a heroic and fair act? A stand that all of us should have taken a long time ago’,” Uthman Raheem said in his sermon. “Why do you detain a man who stood up in the face of injustice?”
Fighting between minority Sunni Arabs who dominated Iraq under Saddam Hussein and the majority Shi’ite Arabs now in ascendancy killed thousands of people during the bloodshed unleashed by the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
The violence has finally begun to die down even though suicide and car bomb blasts, many attributed to Sunni Islamist al Qaeda, remain routine.
The cause of the journalist who also called Bush a “dog” at the news conference in Baghdad where he threw his shoes, narrowly missing the president, has bridged Iraq’s divides.