Iraq: Islamo-gangsta rap promotes sectarian cleansing

On the subject of free speech. From The Telegraph, March 5:

Shia musicians in Iraq are raising sectarian tensions by producing “gangsta-rap” songs in which they call for Shias to kill Sunnis.

The hate-filled lyrics of singers such as Riyadh al Wadi have proved a big hit in Shia areas after the tit-for-tat killings that have pushed the country to the brink of civil war in the past two weeks. In his songs, he urges fellow Shias to ignore the appeals of their most senior cleric not to retaliate against acts of provocation by Sunni insurgents.

Pleas for calm issued by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani are credited with stopping a slide into large-scale violence, but have fallen on increasingly deaf ears since the bombing 10 days ago of the sacred Shia shrine at Samarra.

Al Wadi, who is from Al Amara in the Shia heartlands of southern Iraq, talks of revenge for Sunni-sponsored pogroms in cities such as Latifiya and Madan last year.

“We should teach them a lesson not to kill anybody else,” he sings. “Why does Sistani prevent us from killing them? If we enter Latifiyah we’ll wipe it from the map. We’ve had enough and the end is coming.”

His song, which also has a video that can be downloaded on mobile telephones, is the first of its kind to emerge among Iraq’s Shias. It also makes lewd and unfounded comments about members of Saddam Hussein’s family and their relationship with various Sunni Arab rulers of neighbouring states.

While similar material has been peddled by extremist Sunni musicians for some time, the fact that Shias are following suit is likely to be seen as further evidence of an increasingly tense religious climate.

In the latest spate of violence, suspected Sunni gunmen stormed through the town of Nahrawan near Baghdad, killing at least 19 Shias at a brickworks. The dead were said to include a woman and three children, one a girl aged six.

The Shia prime minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, whose own position is increasingly perilous because of Sunni and Kurdish opposition in parliament, has pleaded for an end to “inflammatory” sermons by Iraq’s imams.

The violence, which has claimed more than 200 lives since the shrine bombing, has continued despite heavy security in Baghdad which has reduced the city to a virtual ghost town.

See our last post on Iraq.