February 2003 News

Kashmiris Offer Special Prayers For Peace In Iraq

15 February 2003
The Asian Age

Srinagar: While the rest of India is caught up in a cricket frenzy, the people of the Kashmir Valley are more concerned about the developments in Iraq. Special prayers were offered throughout the picturesque Valley on Id on Wednesday expressing solidarity with the Iraqi people. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein doesn't personally have many well-wishers here, but the plight of his nation's people is becoming a highly emotive issue. 'American President George Bush is telling the world that he is worried about the Iraqi possession of nuclear weapons but doesn't rule out the use of nuclear weapons against Iraq in the probable US intervention there,' said Srinagar resident Farooq Banday. 'The US has no business playing the conscience-keeper for the Iraqi people,' said Mr Banday, adding however that he would like to see Saddam Hussein abdicating power in the interest of his people. There were mass prayers throughout the Valley on Id. There were prayers for peace in Iraq and also for better sense to the Islamic world so that Muslim countries unite to face the challenges posed by the West. Kashmiris are especially disturbed because some of the holiest Islamic shrines and mausoleums happen to be in Iraq and if US bombs fall there, the local psyche would be definitely bruised. Iraq is home to the grave of Prophet Mohammad's grandson Imam Hussain, who was martyred fighting enemies at Karbala. Each year hundreds of Kashmiri Shia Muslims go on a pilgrimage to Karbala. 'Seventy-two other martyrs who fell fighting the Yazid are buried at Karbala. More than a dozen of Hussain's family members are also buried there. The sanctity of Karbala is non-negotiable for us and that makes Iraq a holy land,' said Altaf Hussain Rizvi, whose parents have just returned from a pilgrimage to Iraq. The mausoleum of Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani, a great Muslim scholar and saint, lies in the Iraqi capital Baghdad. Jeelani is popular in Kashmir as Peer Dastgir and locals gather in the thousands at his shrine at Khanyar in downtown Srinagar where some of his relics are preserved and displayed to the devotees during the annual Urs festival.


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