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Incomplete mosque bares Iraq divisions

BAGHDAD: This image taken on Nov 16, 2021 displays a view of the Al-Rahman Grand Mosque within the Al-Mansour district of Iraq’s capital. – AFP

BAGHDAD: It used to be supposed to compete with the Taj Mahal in grandeur, however former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s enormous Al-Rahman Mosque venture used to be by no means finished. As a substitute, the half-finished edifice of gray concrete stands within the center of Baghdad as testimony to the sectarian and political strife that has formed a lot of Iraq’s fashionable historical past.

The purpose used to be for the mosque, with a capability for 15,000 worshippers, to be some of the biggest within the Heart East. Introduced within the Nineties in the course of a crippling Western embargo over Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, the development of the mosque used to be designed to be a snub to Washington. However the dictator’s goals of grandeur – in conjunction with them his iron-fisted rule – would come crumbling down with the 2003 US-led invasion.

As of late, a limiteless hollow gapes on the sky from the place an 84-metre-tall, gold-adorned ceramic dome used to be meant to hide the central prayer corridor. Round it, 8 secondary domes 28 m top, each and every flanked by way of 8 smaller domes, stand in a suspended state of close to of completion. A number of cranes are frozen in time above the edifice, which towers over the upscale Mansur district of the capital.

“Sadly, we’ve unnoticed the rustic’s heritage,” architect and college professor Mohamed Qassem Abdel Ghaffour advised AFP. “Those tasks belong to all Iraqis, we must employ this heritage, and switch them into cultural and touristic websites,” he added. “All of that is Iraq’s cash and the state will have to make the most of it.”

Even if it used to be to begin with constructed as a Sunni mosque, it used to be taken over by way of Shiite clerics after the autumn of Saddam. As of late, this can be a image of department between Shiites, now the dominant political power in Baghdad after many years of marginalization within the Shiite-majority Arab state. “After the autumn of the outdated regime, the mosque fell beneath the regulate of the Islamic Distinctive feature Celebration,” a senior govt legitimate who requested to stay nameless advised AFP. “The celebration used to be by no means in a position to finish building, for the reason that prices are large.”

Saddam Hussein “sought after a mosque larger than the Taj Mahal”, he recalled. The Islamic Distinctive feature Celebration has blocked govt plans to show the mosque into a school or museum, the legitimate mentioned. Even if the celebration’s takeover of the mosque stays unofficial, its participants dangle the principle weekly prayers each and every Friday at midday beneath some of the secondary domes. About 150 households have lived for years in makeshift houses that sprouted on vacant loads surrounding the mosque.

In January 2020, a courtroom identified the authority of the Shiite waqf – the establishment that manages the neighborhood’s non secular homes – over the mosque. The decision obliged the Islamic Distinctive feature Celebration to pay $200 million in repayment, in line with a observation from the waqf. The waqf accuses the celebration of getting occupied the website “for greater than 16 years”, “with none prison or non secular legitimacy”.

However the courtroom ruling has now not been enforced. Activist Subeih Al-Kachtini mentioned that Iraqi safety forces had attempted a number of occasions to intrude. “However confronted with the guns of the state, there are the guns of the events,” he mentioned. Building of land adjoining to the mosque to construct a shopping mall or a housing advanced may create as much as 20,000 jobs, in line with the waqf. However “building can not resume till the mosque is got rid of from partisan conflicts”, Kachtini mentioned, and the established order stays.

For Caecilia Pieri, a researcher on the French Institute of the Close to East, the mosque testifies to the “coverage of architectural symbolism” of Saddam’s Baathist regime. The overdue dictator’s way may well be summed up as: “I write Allah Akbar (God is Largest) at the nationwide flag and construct mosques,” mentioned Pieri, a expert within the structure of Baghdad within the twentieth century.

Mazen Al-Alussi, who headed the dep. in command of conception and making plans beneath Saddam, mentioned the venture used to be a “certainly one of a sort” initiative. The associated fee to finish the mosque don’t need to be exorbitant, mentioned Alussi. “It must be became a unified mosque the place each Shiites and Sunnis can pray.” – AFP




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