Interfaith in Iraq

How's this for a lede?

At a humble, green-domed mosque in the heart of Baghdad, a grizzled preacher named Sheik Ahmed Yassin stood his ground. Gunmen had killed five of his followers and kidnapped two of his sons. Threats had thinned his congregation, and the worshipers who still came rushed to their cars after prayers to avoid becoming the latest victims.

Makes you want to read the next graph, yes?

It's part of a Knight Ridder report, by Johnny-on-the-spot Yasser Salihee, on a a conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims for control of Iraq's mosques. That's right, plural:

Shiites have seized up to 40 Sunni mosques since Saddam Hussein's government fell, according to Shiite and Sunni clerics. While Sunnis view the campaign as a land grab, Shiites say they are reclaiming plots that Saddam stole from Shiite landowners.

This conflict led to protests, of a sort, by both factions this Friday. Shiites took to the streets to protest the jailing of several supporters of cleric -- sorry, make that "radical cleric" -- Muqtada al-Sadr. The Sunni, for their part, shut down several mosques "in a show of anger over alleged sectarian violence against the minority."

Sticking up for the rights of the minority, we have the Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who has issued a hotly-disputed fatwa telling the his co-religionists to give the Sunni back the mosques that they have appropriated.

One paragraph could have been clearer: I think that Muqtada al-Sadr has called for American and Israeli flags to be painted on the ground outside of many mosques in protest of the occupation, so that worshipers would regularly defame the emblems of both countries. But the way it's worded, the facts of the proposal -- and its implementation -- are a bit murky.

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