TEHRAN, Apr. 10 (Mehr News Agency) -- The thoughtless and unscrupulous remarks of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who recently claimed that Iraq's majority community is under the sway of Iran and that Shias are almost always loyal to Iran and not the countries in which they reside, have sparked anger across the region.
"There are Shias in all these countries (of the region), significant percentages, and Shias are mostly always loyal to Iran and not the countries where they live," Mubarak said in an interview aired on Saturday by the Dubai-based Al Arabiya news channel. He also stated that he believes Iraq is in the midst of a civil war that threatens the Middle East.
Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari strongly condemned Mubarak's remarks. "The comments have upset Iraqi people, who come from different religious and ethnic backgrounds, and have astonished and discontented the Iraqi government," he told reporters Sunday.
Expressing his dissatisfaction with Mubarak's statements, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said these "accusations against our Shia brothers are baseless, and we have asked our foreign minister to talk to Egypt about this."
In nearby Kuwait, whose population is one third Shia, Shia MPs and clerics lashed out at Egypt's leader. "We are not begging for certificates of loyalty to our countries from Mubarak or others. These are irresponsible statements... and only serve to incite sectarian rifts," MP Hassan Jowhar said. "Nothing can satisfy Shias except a clear, official apology from President Mubarak."
Lebanon's Hezbollah has also denounced Mubarak's assertion that Arab Shias' main allegiance is to Iran. The Shia party described Mubarak's statements as lies meant to stir up tension between the Arab world's Sunni and Shia communities. "These are dangerous and false words that reveal fanaticism and sectarianism aimed at sowing discord wished for by America," said prominent Hezbollah member Sheikh Mohammed Yazbek.
There must be some reason for Mubarak's remarks. Perhaps he is angry about the result of the Iraqi elections of December 2005 in which the Shias won the most seats in parliament, which was quite predictable since they account for about 60 percent of the population and had been languishing under the Saddam Hussein dictatorship for years.
Yet, history has taught us that in every social development, people first turn to fundamental ideals, but, over the course of time, that enthusiasm gradually subsides, and these developments are interpretable within a social and psychological framework. Thus, we advise Mubarak to wait and see what happens in the future. In upcoming elections, the people of Iraq of every religious and ethnic group may turn to those who do not capitalize on religious or ethnic background.
The fact that Arab people feel a sense of friendship toward the people of Iran is a natural and welcome occurrence, and the Egyptian president should not be angry about this. The religion of Islam serves as a strong link between the people of the region, who are also in close proximity to each other geographically.
Another reason could be the fact that regional Muslim nations regard Iran as somewhat of a model because it has made a bridge between Islam and democracy, sees no contradiction in that, and did not wait for a model of democracy prescribed by Washington, unlike Mubarak, who was forced to hold a quasi-democratic election in which he unwillingly agreed to compete with others for the presidential post for the first time.
Another reason that the Arab nations like the Iranian people and leadership is that Iran is a defender of the oppressed Palestinian nation that has been suffering for decades.
The Egyptian leader may also be angry about the process of democratization in Iraq, which is not a welcome development for those rulers who believe that only they can rule the people.
"Shias may be loyal to Iran emotionally but not politically. Comments that Shias are manipulated by Iran are a huge exaggeration," said Bahgat Korany, professor of political science at the American University in Cairo.
"It was completely uncalled for," said Mohammed Sayed Said, political analyst with the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.
"He is giving an impression that there is a Sunni-Shia divide in the Arab world. This way he is condemning half the population. Mr. Mubarak used to be a man who calculated his words carefully, but I think age makes a difference," said the Cairo-based analyst.
Mubarak also claimed that Iraq is in the midst of civil war. First of all, he should be reminded that what is going on in Iraq is not a civil war but a chaotic situation created by terrorists loyal to Al-Qaeda who have been infiltrating into Iraq from Arab countries, including Egypt. This is not a war of Sunni against Shia, but a war of deviated religion against humanity conducted by the adherents of a distorted interpretation of Islam which claims that killing Shias is mandatory.
Sunni Arab leaders have repeatedly said that those who attack Shia gatherings and kill innocent civilians in the streets are not Muslims. It is not difficult to figure out that the suicide bombings in Iraq are not part of a civil war but terrorist acts similar to the assassination of Ahmad Shah Masood of Afghanistan's Northern Alliance, the September 11, 2001 attacks, the bombings of the Madrid subway and London underground, and many other outrages.
A leader like Mubarak should first analyze the facts on the ground and avoid sensational statements and then make judgments.
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