Tensions Lead to Iraq Intra-Shi’ite Violence

Controversial scholar orders shrines destroyed

Iraq has had its trouble with religious violence over the past couple of decades. That’s mostly centered around the traditional Sunni-Shi’ite divide. However, the latest tensions are built on internal disputes within Shi’a Islam, and controversial scholar Mahmoud al-Sarkhi.

Sarkhi is a former student of hugely important Iraqi scholar Mohammad Sadiq al-Sadr, the father of current cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Sarkhi has been pushing the position that building structures on graves is haram in Islam.

The position is built around admonitions from the Prophet Mohammad for simple graves, and against using graves as a special site for prayer. This is a controversial stance is Iraq particularly, as the nation has many important Shi’ite shrines. Sarkhi’s aide, during a sermon in April, called on the demolition of the shrines over the graves of Shi’ite imams.

Most dismissed the calls, and followers of Moqtada al-Sadr attacked offices and buildings run by Sarkhi around the country. Sadr issued a warning about legal action to Sarkhi, and Iraq’s security forces arrested a number of Sarkhi’s supporters.

The crackdown is seen as trying to tamp down the controversy, but in moving against Sarkhi so aggressively, there is concern they’re going to provoke a blowback.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.