Baghdad, April 5: The imam leaned on his sword and intoned to the ranks of the faithful. “Allah! Do not let us down! Defeat our enemies, the English, the Americans, the Jews!” he cried into his microphone.
“Make the earth tremble beneath their feet! Turn their blood to ice! Show us the extent of your power!”
With his long beard, white turban and with one hand on his sword in its scabbard, the other making broad gestures, Sheikh Bakr al-Samarai, the imam at Baghdad’s al Gailani mosque, invoked divine intervention to avenge the “infidel”.
“Iraqis! Allah has chosen you as his people! Allah! Give us victory and show the right path for our leader Saddam Hussein!”
The message echoed through loudspeakers. All of Baghdad’s main mosques have their own generators. In a city deprived of electricity since Thursday evening, the imams’ voices will not be silenced.
And this was not just any audience. Among the traditional keffiyeh and the occasional pair of jeans were plenty of olive green uniforms belonging to members of the Baath party and the various secret services.
“Allah is the greatest!” concluded the imam. The ranks of faithful bowed down, feverishly muttering. Built in the 12th century above the tomb of Sheikh Abdelkader al-Gailani, known as the Supreme Saviour, one of the great holy men of the Sunni faith, the mosque is a regular venue for the Iraqi regime’s top brass. Among the marble columns, the moustachioed generals kissed each other affectionately. Uniformed Baath Party leaders, with pistols on their belts, gathered before the Supreme Saviour’s tomb.
The minister of religious affairs passed with a wave of his hand, surrounded by bodyguards. His entire entourage was armed. The next to leave was Imam Samarai, with his head held high. His brother, a large man holding a Kalashnikov, dismissed the crowd.
In front of the mosque, an old man in a headscarf prophetically announced an American defeat.
“We are not Somalia, we are not Afghanistan,” said Hadjii Salaheddin, his voice quavering.