Dainik Bhaskar and the Iraqi Shias

BY ninan| IN Media Practice | 05/04/2003
It was evidently fed biased data which it published by applying the questionable doctrine of good faith.



L H Naqvi



The war desk of Dainik Bhaskar, Chandigarh, made a serious error in its April 2 report on the suicide attacks on US-led coalition forces in Iraq. It could not have made the error on its own. It was evidently fed biased data which it published by applying the questionable doctrine of good faith.

Had the Hindi daily taken the trouble of cross checking the facts about the Shia Muslims of South Iraq it would have avoided the hurtful reference to them as having betrayed Hazrat Ali who is buried in Najaf. The word "shia" is derived from the expression "shia`an-e-Ali" that literally means followers of Ali, the fourth Caliph of  Islam and the the first of the 12 Imams the Shia Muslims revere. For a Shia Muslim to be an enemy of Ali is a contradiction in terms.


This is what the Dainik Bhaskar war desk said - According to Iraqi Television Ali Nomani performed the same rituals as are usually performed by Hamas activists before undertaking a suicide mission ... He chose a holy place for the attack ... this spot between Najaf and Karbala is the same where Prophet Mohammad`s grandson Husain ibne Ali and his associates had attained martyrdom in the 7th century ... The Shia Muslims of Iraq too commemorate this incident, but with feelings of shame and remorse ... The reason is that in the last moments before his death the Shias of southern Iraq had turned against Hazrat Ali. That is the reason why the Shias beat their chests to make them bleed during Moharram. They believe that the blood from their wounds would wash the shame of having betrayed Ali.


Now the facts. A Shia by definition has to be a follower of Ali. The moment he leaves Ali he ceases to be a Shia. Two, Moharram does not commemorate the martyrdom of Hazrat Ali. Moharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar. On the 10th of Moharram Imam Husain , Ali`s second son, had attained martyrdom along with his family members and companions in Karbala - and not at a spot between Najaf and Karbala as mentioned in the report. Bhaskar claims to have picked up the information from Iraqi television that is not available to viewers in India.


There is another mischievous reference concerning the role of Shia Muslims in executing suicide attacks. The report says - Lt Ali Nomani`s sacrifice has sent a message to Shia Muslims that it is better to die in suicide attacks than take the risk of being humiliated by American coalition forces. This way they can make a name for themselves as also leave behind a fortune for their families. [Nomani was reportedly given sterling pounds 22,000 by Saddam Hussein.] Responsible journalism avoids such generalisations. That Nomani was posthomously given the rank of Colonel by Saddam Hussein as also 222,000 sterling pounds are facts. The rest is generalisation that should have been avoided.


Here is still more evidence of irresponsible reporting by the Bhaskar war desk. It says - There is a tradition among Shia Muslims of participating in suicide attacks. And what is the evidence the newspaper offers in support of the reckless claim? An attack way back in 1983 in which 300 American marines were killed. It is silent about the identity of those who brought down the World Trade Centre or the groups of Pakistan-trained Jehadis who are active in India. Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar and Saddam are not Shias. Iran is the only Shia Muslim state in the world.


  The Bhaskar is evidently a victim of the American media policy of divide and rule. The American coaltion forces thought that the majority Shia population will side with them in toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein, who is a Sunni. A fact they ignored was that after Gulf War I the so-called tyrant of Iraq provided funds for the reconstruction of the holy shirnes in Najah and Karbala that were damaged by troops led by America


  Now that the Iraqi Shias have refused to take the bait, a vicious American propaganda has been unleashed to prepare the ground for attacking Iran - that is if Iraq does not prove to be graveyard of American arrogance and supremacy. What must be a further source of annoyance for President George W. Bush are reports that Saudi Arabia, that follows the most rabid Wahabi brand of Islam, is willing to soften its anti-Shia attitude for achieving Islamic unity against the larger threat of western domination.


L H Naqvi  is associate editor of the Tribune in Chandigarh. Contact: lhnaqvi@hotmail.com

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