Security for Shiites Causes Controversy

Alwan has a different opinion. He told Al-Monitor that it is the government’s duty to protect the crowds taking part in religious rituals. “Participating in these rituals is a [religious] duty and people must not give it up, no matter the circumstances,” he said.

Some of these events provide evidence to the significant paradoxes between the risk of the security situation and the obligation to protect the crowds. On July 11, 2014, one day after IS’ takeover of Mosul and Tikrit, the commander of the Baghdad Operations Command announced in a press conference the allocation of 22,000 security personnel to participate in the protection of one of these rituals known as the night of mid-Shaaban.

Hassani told Al-Monitor, “It is a major paradox. The country is under occupation while the state is mobilizing its troops in another direction.”

Hassani, a Shiite, does not object to the principle of practicing religious rituals. He said that he has been taking part in them since he was young, but he believes downsizing these religious ceremonies and easing the security burden on the state — allowing it to mobilize its efforts to fight terrorist organizations expanding inside the Iraqi territory — would be in the country’s interest.

This debate has now become a matter of public opinion, but it does not seem that the Iraqi government is able to downsize religious celebrations by itself. This is not a political decision, but rather requires an understanding by the key religious institutions in the country, such as the Najaf authority, to persuade their followers to postpone the exercise of some of these rituals for a period of time, so as to allow the government to mobilize all of its security means toward the liberation of the Iraqi territories occupied by terrorist groups.

(Koran image via Shutterstock)

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