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  1. Baghdad beats: Meet the Shia rappers raising the roof How an Iraqi cleric is creating a storm by urging his followers to rap for their religion Followers of the al-Sarkhi movement dance to live religious rap at the mosque in the Al Sha-ab neighbourhood of Baghdad (MEE/Sebastian Castelier) By Sebastian Castelier , Quentin Müller in Baghdad 29 July 2019 12:28 BST | Last update: 3 years 8 months ago 3.8kShares In the premises of a mosque in Al Sha'ab, a working-class district of Baghdad, followers of the al-Sarkhi movement, a religious group within the Iraqi Shia sect, noisily engage in “Islamic rap”. The mosque walls vibrate to the beat of the music. Inside, dozens of young men start to fiercely hit their chest in rhythm. Microphone in hand, a rapper performs traditional latmiyat - chanted verses mourning Muslim icons. This unconventional ritual is a frontal challenge to Iraq’s religious establishment, and aims to revive spirituality and religiosity among the youth by speaking their “modern language”. "Western rap calls for immorality, drugs and crimes, while ours promotes dialogue, peace, meditation, worshipping and inter-faith understanding," 40-year-old rapper Lo’ai Mohammed told MEE. Shia cleric Mahmoud al-Sarkhi is at the forefront of this movement, which claims up to 10,000 followers - although the figure is doubted by local researchers on Shia Islam (they prefer not to be identified). Sarkhi wasn’t always known for religious rap. In 2014, Reuters reported that Sarkhi and his armed followers previously clashed with US forces, as well as “Iraqi security forces and supporters of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most revered Shiite cleric in Iraq.” In the pulsating atmosphere of Al Sha'ab’s mosque, participants are crowded together and sweat heavily as they gesticulate in rhythm to the music. “Thanks to our Islamic rap, very much liked by young Iraqis, youth are returning to the mosque and we can claim to have achieved one of our objectives,” Sheikh Salem al-Jumahi shouts over the sound of poems, clapping and jubilation. Still, many Iraqi youth doubt the sincerity of the initiative. Ghufran Ibrahim, 25, studies pharmacy in Baghdad and questions the true intentions of any Iraqi religious leaders. “My family and I don't believe their words because they seek personal benefits out of their speeches." Iraqis are losing their religious faith, according to a recent BBC News survey, with trust in religious leaders plummeting. “After all that had happened in Iraq people have started to doubt them, which causes an increase in atheism,” she told MEE. A 24-year-old medical student who lives in Baghdad and prefers not to be named, told MEE that Iraqis once trusted their religious leaders to develop the country. “And now, Iraq is left with two groups only, either extremists or atheists,” she said. Sayed Hossein Qazwini, above, a professor of philosophy of Islamic law in Karbala, acknowledges that Islam is losing momentum among youth. “Political parties who spoke in the name of religion have ruined Islam’s image,” he says. But he sees the al-Sarkhi movement as a worrying development. “In Islam, music is not allowed and they mix religion with rap, which is known for indecent behaviour. Rap music is okay in Los Angeles, but not in Iraq,” the scholar told MEE. From his office in Karbala, Qazwini claims that the Iraqi religious establishment should learn to speak the language of the youth and make sure that their speeches do not conflict with science. “I think we also need to promote peace and harmony with other religions further. Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go,” the scholar said. The al-Sarkhi movement sees its version of religious rap as part of its efforts to bring young people back to religion, which it does also by encouraging them to read the Quran. Qazwini concedes the movement has found a way to reconnect with the youth: “In a way, it is successful and puts more responsibility on the shoulders of our religious establishment. "Let’s face it, we have not done enough to reach out to the youth and if we don't act, we may lose them all,” Qazwini said. But his misgivings remain. “Today it is rap, but if we open this door, tomorrow there might be something else, where is it going to lead religion?” However rapper Lo’ai Mohammed answers that rap is a global language understood by all youth in the current era. “It is a normal language to convey messages,” he says. All photography copyright Sebastian Castelier/Middle East Eye Recommended A mosque for all seasons: Worshippers mark the third Ramadan at Athens' Votanikos Mosque Interfaith Jewish group plant date palms in Medina Akbar the Great: How the Mugh or set an example for religious tolerance in India Read more Music Iranian hip-hop: How rappers found a global voice Art and photography Kuwait street style: Meet the breakdancers, rappers and graffiti artists e ISSN 2634-2456
  2. Aljazeera reporting Thousands of people have rallied in the Iraqi capital to mark the second anniversary of the killing of a revered Iranian commander and his Iraqi lieutenant in a drone attack by the United States. Chanting “Death to America”, the marchers filled a Baghdad square to honour Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani, who headed the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of the elite Revolutionary Guard, until his death on January 3, 2020. “US terrorism has to end”, read one sign at the rally by backers of the pro-Iranian Hashed, also known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), a former paramilitary alliance that has been integrated into Iraq’s state security apparatus. “We will not let you stay after today in the land of the martyrs,” another placard read. US and Israeli flags were strewn on the ground, with people trampling them. Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahed said the protesters are using the rally as an opportunity to reiterate their demands of full withdrawal of US and foreign troops from Iraq. “Thousands of protesters, members of Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces were chanting against the US and the presence of US troops in Iraq,” he said, speaking from Baghdad. “They are blaming the [Iraqi] government for what they consider is collaborating with US forces,” he continued, “and that there hasn’t been any clarity or any transparency in the investigation over the past two years since the killing of General Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.” Supporters of Iran-aligned Shia factions were bussed in from various Iraqi provinces to the rally in Jadriyah, near the headquarters of the powerful armed groups. Former US President Donald Trump ordered the attack that killed Soleimani near Baghdad’s airport along with his Iraqi lieutenant, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Hashed’s deputy. Trump had then said the assassination came in response to a wave of attacks on US interests in Iraq. The killing of Soleimani – the architect of Iran’s Middle Eastern military strategy – and al-Muhandis sent shock waves across the region and sparked fears of a direct military confrontation between decades-old enemies Washington and Tehran. Days later, Iraq’s parliament passed a non-binding resolution calling for the expulsion of all foreign troops from Iraq. Iran, which wields considerable influence in neighbouring Iraq, warned it would avenge Soleimani’s death. Five days after the killing, Iran fired missiles at an air base in Iraq housing US troops and another near Erbil in the north. Since then, dozens of rockets and roadside bombs have targeted Western security, military and diplomatic sites across Iraq. Iraqi and Western officials have blamed hardline pro-Iran factions for the attacks, which have never been claimed by any group. In February last year, the US carried out an air raid against Kataeb Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Iraqi paramilitary force stationed along the Iraqi-Syrian border, following rocket attacks on its Baghdad embassy and a US military contracting firm north of the capital. Hashed has repeatedly called for the withdrawal of US troops who are deployed in Iraq as part of a multinational coalition fighting the ISIL (ISIS) group. Senior Hashed official Faleh al-Fayyad reiterated the demand Saturday, saying the killing of Soleimani and al-Muhandis was “a crime against Iraqi sovereignty”. In December, Iraq announced the end of the “combat mission” there of the US-led coalition against ISIL. But about 2,500 American soldiers and 1,000 coalition troops will remain deployed in Iraq to offer training, advice and assistance to national forces. “We will not accept anything less than full withdrawal as revenge for the blood of our martyrs,” said Hadi al-Ameri, head of an Iran-aligned coalition.
  3. Iraqi's are fighting hard, they always have and they seem to always will. I guess that leaves a legacy in itself that they're fighting for their nation. People are dying, the government army are attacking them with machine guns and other types of operatives. Communities are falling apart... At some point you just think to yourself, is anything going to change? As an Iraqi woman, with full love to my country, and its history, it physically is distressing, and mentally painful to see this happening to my family, to my communities. Protesting has maybe had an affect in other countries, but with a government like Iraqs... Whats bound to happen, anyway??
  4. In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful, This is a poem dedicated to the death anniversary of the tragic murder of Imam Musa Al Kadhim, Baghdad’s prisoner written by my humble self. Oh master of Kadmiya, Oh beloved of Zahra, There was no funeral like yours Ya Musa, A murdered prisoner poisoned by a tyrant killer. And what a prisoner is kept in this manner, Let me words paint for your eyes a picture, And colour this canvas with the gems of your tears, He is kept in Baghdad’s most narrow prison, For 14 years no fresh air enters, Like a flower he has withered. He cries each time he moves bound in chains, Yet only deaf ears and dead souls hear his pains, As he ingests this poison, The Earth trembles as his whole body shakes, This prisoner will never awake. And the Muezzin as he gives the Adhaan at Fajr, Baghdad celebrates the death of a prisoner, A law breaker who has been captured, Unknowing to them that he is Islam’s protector. What a prisoner who in a foreign land has been captured, The one who has several sons and daughters his body is carried by strangers, No one is there to carry his coffin on their shoulders, The Imam of the world and at his funeral there are no mourners. There’s no other coffin who’s still bound in chains even after his last breath, His shroud covered in blood, A captive even after his death, The daughters of Kadhim cannot rest, They can still smell their father’s scent. When a person dies, Surrounds his deathbed his family, Together they prepared their body to be buried, Yet this prisoner has nobody, Labourers to Baghdad’s bridge carry his body. As his mother Zahra cries this son of mine has died lonely and thirsty, With cuffs and chains encased around his body, Oh people this is the descendant of your Prophet, A great grandson of Ali, Do not show this brutality, For he has never shown the world anything but mercy. Oh Ridha I urge you come quickly, To bury your father in Baghdad’s city, For you are the next guardian of this message of purity, We will all grieve for your father for eternity. Oh my master Imam Mehdi, There’s no day like the day of Ashura, And there’s no years like the years by Kadim, The lonely prisoner, Oh Allah, I pray to you to fulfil my prayers, Through the loving memory of Babul Hawaij, The gate to wishes and prayers, Let me go to his door and raise my hands in Khadimiya, And my tears flow for the torture he endured.
  5. Assalam, I heard that we can get on arrival visa's in Baghdad specifically just for arbaeen. Does anyone know about this?
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