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Mumbai’s human shield for Saddam

Mumbai, March 20: A band of brothers is leaving for Iraq to stop Bush’s missiles from hitting their targets.

Eleven members from three Islamic organisations in the city — eight of them Ulemas and three businessmen — are waiting for their visas to come through so that they can reach Saddam Hussein land to form a human shield.

“We will leave for Iraq as soon as we get our visas,” says Suhail Rokadia, secretary of Raza Academy, the moving force behind the effort. They are expecting to leave in a day or two.

“We will link up with the activists who are already there to be part of the human shield,” says Rokadia, who adds all of them are prepared to die in order to protest the war perpetrated by George W. Bush. “We are carrying our funeral shrouds with us,” Rokadia says. “Islam teaches us your life is not your own.”

He says that so far human shields have guarded only places like hospitals and schools. But he and his colleagues are ready to guard more sensitive targets, too.

They will reach Jordan by air, from where they will take the road. “We are in touch with Indian students in Saddam University,” Rokadia says.

Sabir Nirban, who owns a mobile phone agency, is among the first 11. He says he is prepared to stay put in Iraq till the situation changes. But since they don’t have much idea about the country or the course the events will take, they don’t know what really lies ahead or how long they will stay there.

Other batches of men for the human shield will leave once the first batch reaches Iraq.

“There are 235 persons who have already lined up. They will leave in batches,” Rokadia adds.

Rokadia says he and the other members of his group — aged between 30 and 60 — are representing Indian Muslims and India. Their families have been very supportive to their “Islamic cause”. Iraq, he says, is significant for Sunni Muslims for it hosts the shrine of the Muslim saint, Abdul Qadir Jeelani.

“Bush has started this war to take revenge. We are against Saddam Hussein, too. Our concern is the ordinary people of Iraq. We will do our bit for them,” Nirban says.

The other organisations involved are the All-India Sunni Jamiyat Ul Ulema and the Sunni Tableeghi Jammat.

The organisations made an announcement on March 6 for volunteers to join the effort, followed by advertisements in Urdu newspapers.

Each member is responsible for collecting his own funds.

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