Voice from the Commonwealth Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts
"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams
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Thousands of Iraqi Shi'ites enjoyed their first taste of religious freedom on Thursday, starting out on a pilgrimage of hundreds of miles that was banned under ousted president Saddam Hussein (news - web sites). Women in black shawls and bearded men chanted as they passed through lush villages toward the sacred city of Kerbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad, on a trek that would have landed them in jail, or worse, just a few weeks ago.
The roots of Shi'ism date back to the deaths in 661 of Imam Ali, son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammad and first leader of the Shi'ites, and that of his son, Imam Hussein, 19 years later -- both at the hands of Sunni Muslims.
Imam Hussein was killed in a battle in Kerbala, and the pilgrimage -- Arbaiin -- marks the 40th day after his death.
The last time Iraqi Shi'ites marked the event in public was in 1977, when Iraqi troops attacked pilgrims.
"I was there," said Mohammad Baquir al-Mohri, a Shi'ite leader in Kuwait. "The Iraqis attacked mourners with tanks and machineguns, thousands were arrested. Eleven activists were hanged."
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