Monday, January 08, 2007

Walid comments on Saddam execution

http://www.arabamericannews.com/newsarticle.php?articleid=7230

Saddam execution gets mixed community reaction

By: Aatif Ali Bokhari / The Arab American News

DETROIT — Dearborn wasn't the only place people were partying this week. Canada's Iraqi-Shi'i community also celebrated the execution of Saddam Hussein.

The Ontario community isn't concentrated in a particular area. That put a damper on the kind of large-scale spontaneous street-side celebrations from taking place in Canada that happened in Dearborn.

Iraqi Shi'is in the U.S.' large northern neighbor made it clear that Saddam's death was to be hailed as the end of a tyrant's life, not just for the Shi'a but for all Iraqis. But feelings were mixed on just what the execution signified or accomplished.

"I feel happy on one hand and sad on another," said Ahmad Al Hashimi, an engineer living in Richmond Hill, Ontario.

Al Hashimi is related to many prominent Iraqi religious scholars. His wife is a relative of the legendary Muhammad Baqir As Sadr, one of Iraq's most prominent Shi'i clerics of the last century who was killed by Saddam. Al Hashimi mentioned that a cousin, also a cleric, was executed by Iraq's former president.

Al Hashimi — who opposed Saddam's regime yet was against the U.S. invasion of Iraq — said that he was "happy to see this tyrant brought down. I hope this will be an eye-opener for his likes. Those who suffered under him of course wanted him to be brought to justice.
"The sad feeling comes into play that he was executed under such a fabricated scenario. It was a kangaroo court.

"I would have been happier to have seen a red card given to Donald Rumsfeld who offered Saddam a warm handshake," said Al Hashimi, alluding to the card handed to Saddam indicating he was soon to be a dead man.

"They put Saddam on trial you know, and you're thinking, 'This is a bunch of nonsense'," said Hani Taki, also of Richmond Hill, explaining the feelings that many Canadian Iraqi-Shi'is felt during the legal proceedings. "People thought he was going to escape to some island or be given a chance to appeal. Then all of a sudden he was hanged. I don't know if people are still accepting it."

Taki — a university student and well known member of the Al Fajr Youth, a Shi'i youth group — noted that his two aunts, one 17 and the other 20, had been killed by Saddam for refusing to join the Baath Party while in school.

Taki's family, who had been "very anti-Saddam and open about it," had fled to Iran where he said they faced discrimination for many years. They finally found refuge in Canada in '87.
Taki was unsure what kind of effect Saddam's execution would have on Iraq's political stability. "That is not certain," he said, "but one thing which is sure is that the execution of a person like Saddam means a lot for those people who suffered under him."

But what do Iraqi-Shi'is think about how the execution played out? Some have said that the majority-Shi'i government was insensitive to the smaller Sunni community in allowing unidentified witnesses to make Shi'i religious chants during the hanging, as well as letting the executioners insult Saddam.

"It was terrible and horrible, the witnesses were supposed to sit there quietly," said Sami Al Askari, an Iraqi government minister speaking to the BBC on Tuesday, noting that taping the event had not been allowed either.

"The Arab American News" spoke to two local community leaders who had strong words about how the execution took place. Weighing in were Sam Yono, past president of the Chaldean Federation of America, and Dawud Walid, executive director for the Michigan Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations.

"I looked at Saddam as being basically a thug as he was ruling Iraq," said Yono. "However, two wrongs don't make a right. The way he was executed was completely uncalled for. If I was in the shoes of the ruling party, I would have reduced his sentence to a life sentence to show that this is a very humble group of leaders," said Yono.

Yono added that a gentle approach "would have been an important part of the healing process so that everyone could believe in the democratic process rather than one group retaliating.
"We are going to see a lot more innocent blood spilled and it could even go into the hundreds of thousands. It seems like this could be a new beginning to terror in Iraq and fighting among factions.

"As Christians, most if not all Chaldeans are against capital punishment. Our faith teaches us to be humble and forgive rather than exact an eye for an eye, quite frankly."

Said Walid: " Undoubtedly Saddam was a tyrant who ruled Iraq through fear and coercion. No one was immune from Saddam's strong-arm measures including the Shi'a, Kurds, Chaldeans or any Arab Sunnis who did not acquiesce to his standards of government.

"The trial to me appeared to be a circus. The trial seemed more ridiculous than the average soap opera on TV. There was a judge dismissed, his defense lawyers were assassinated and then there was his ranting with judges who presided over the case. When I heard that he was going to be tried in Iraq instead of in an international court, I felt at that moment the trial was going to be a circus.

"Why could Saddam not be tried for many of the other crimes that he committed, in particular, the gassing of the Kurds? The other war crimes would have implicated the U.S. government for giving Saddam the weapons to gas thousands of Muslims—Iranians and Iraqi-Kurds.

"Many in the community found it disturbing that he was being executed on a day when many Muslims were celebrating Eid. And the significance of that day as being one commemorating the sacrifice of Abraham, many found the decision to execute him on that day to be a very poor decision. And after seeing that people were chanting Muqtada as Sadr's [a Shi'i-Iraqi leader] name gave the impression that the hanging was an act of revenge."(MORE)

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