Thursday, June 14, 2007

Adventures of the Sunni Atheist and the Christian

Many of you will recall that Zeyad, back in 2004, was sent to a small village near Basra to complete his training in dentistry. There he was able to witness first-hand the deadly antics of the new players in the region. In "Random Thoughts," from January 17, 2004, Zeyad recounts his boss telling him about a dentist who had been murdered.
It seems that no investigation of any kind in the circumstances of his murder is being carried out. The Basrah IP just shrugged off the whole incident as an act of 'revenge against collaborators'. Great, a young man with his whole life ahead of him decides to stay and help people in this isolated area instead of returning home and this is what he gets.

The villagers are bitter about the whole thing, but they keep murmering idiotic fatalist remarks such as "It was Allah's will", "It was his fate", and "Sad but what can we do about it?".
At the same time, already in January Muqtada Al-Sadr's militia were throwing their weight around.
Another troubling incident happened last night. While we had just finished dinner at the doctors residence and were getting ready for tea, two armed murderous looking guys entered the residence without any notice and handed one of the doctors an envelope. They were from maktab al-sayed al-shahid (Muqtada Al-Sadr followers). It turned out that the doctor had ignored a lightly injured sheikh at the hospital earlier that day while treating another emergency case of a car accident. The sheikh left the emergency hall seething and shouting that the doctor would pay for this 'disrespect'. The letter inside the envelope was signed by the office of Al-Sadr and it was some sort of a subpoena for the doctor to come immediately to the office to explain his behaviour or otherwise 'face grave consequences'.
Of course, around six months later, Muqtada Al-Sadr and his militia would strike out against against both the Iraqi military and the Coalition forces, causing the deaths of many Iraqi citizens. After a week or two, he and this militia were surrounded in Najaf. But then, in what is perhaps the biggest blunder ever made by the Americans, they assented to Sistani's request to let Muqty waltz out of Najaf. And he's still at large (very large, you might say) today.

Anyway, back in January, 2004, Zeyad, the atheist Sunni, and his roommate, a Christian, had to discuss their chances of survival in a small village in Muqty's sphere of influence.
My fellow dentist woke me up at night and asked me if we should just abandon the whole internship and get back to Baghdad. "Ha! An atheist Sunni and a Christian. What do you think they'll do if they find out?". We discussed the thing for about two hours and in the end decided to stay and take as much care as possible not to offend the locals, to stick together, and to keep a low profile in the area. I'm already lying to everyone about my Sunni background, and my neighbourhood in Baghdad. I'm even contemplating faking prayers and acting even more pious than the rest of them. heh. Let's just see how this turns out.
We're still waiting to see how it turns out, but the good news is that Zeyad no longer needs to consider faking prayer five times a day.

UPDATE: Mojo informs me that Shia Muslims pray three times a day while Sunni Muslims pray five times a day. So if Zeyad had actually prayed five times a day down near Basra, everyone would have guessed his Sunni background.

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