The Muslim peacemaker 

Sami Rasouli grew up in Iraq, settled in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1986 (the rare, hyphenated Iraqi-American — yes, rare: less than .01 percent of the population, according to recent figures), and in 2005 founded the Muslim Peacemaker Team based in Iraq’s Najaf. Stateside since March, Rasouli was on a recent tour of Corpus Christi and San Antonio to promote the Iraq Art Project and Letters for Peace, a pen-pal exchange program between Iraqi and American children. Weary from the road and South Texas humidity, his grey oxford unbuttoned, Rasouli, who comes across as the friendly “favorite uncle” type, indulged the Current with a lengthy interview late one Friday night after a talk he gave, sponsored by Texans for Peace.

 

What kind of work do you do in Iraq with the Muslim Peacemaker Team?

We form delegates from various communities to visit other communities. The purpose `is` to build bridges of trust, understanding, and also to remove the psychological barriers that `result from` the occupation.

What does that entail for an Iraqi?

Well, the rumors flying around that Shi’ites are killing Sunnis or vice versa … Iraqis, in spite of their differences — being Kurds, Arabs, Christians, Muslims, or others — lived in a harmonious way for a long time, centuries. `We want` to assure this status will not be changed in spite of the foreign forces in Iraq. `Iraqis` should not … “take the bait” and get in an internal fight.

Your wife is Sunni.

Correct. And I’m Shi’ite.

You have said that the sectarian war is a myth. Aren’t there some reports where there is sectarian violence?

Well, the war in Iraq, it’s between the occupation and the Iraqis who are opposing the occupation, so Iraqis are against  the U.S. and their allies. Now, to portray it as a civil war or a sectarian war is just another excuse, a lie, to sustain the lies that the war began with. There are agencies representing foreign government`s`, agencies of intelligence, mercenaries, and there are civil contractors by the thousands — over 100,000 — what are those civil and private contractors doing in Iraq? ... Sacred places, like mosques and shrines, got destroyed, like the Shrine of Samarra … `which` has significant meaning for the Shi’ites. Samarra is populated mostly by Sunnis, who hosted that shrine for centuries without any problem. Why, all of a sudden, would the Sunnis destroy this? This is not the only incident, there are many incidents … any other violent action that takes lives, the U.S. should be held responsible according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, according to the UN Charter.

I’m glad you brought up the United Nations. On May 3, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon introduced the International Compact with Iraq, whose goal, according to the press release, is to integrate Iraq into the international community and to have an Iraq that is at peace with itself. What kind of message does that send to Iraqis?

Nothing, nothing. Zero. Ban should … follow up Kofi Annan, who shied away from saying on BBC that the occupation of Iraq is illegal. Ban should first emphasize the occupation of Iraq should end, the U.S. should have a timetable to withdraw. Iraq should be freed from … outside influence, so the Iraqis can be held accountable and responsible.

I should also mention that Ban made that presentation with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki by his side.

And you  remember there was a rocket that exploded not too far away `referring to the bomb that interrupted their March 22 press conference`? That should send a clear message to Ban that violence should end. So next time when he comes to Iraq, he doesn’t need to go to the “Green Zone,” he needs to go to Baghdad! He should go freely without forces escorting or helicopters flying overhead to protect him … with no fear, no mistrust.

With the U.S. war weariness and efforts to pull troops out, why do you think President Talabani said that Iraq’s leaders are trying to reconcile divided ethnic and religious factions, and that the U.S. and Britain need to stay one or two years?

Because the U.S. told him to say that. Talabani and al-Maliki are puppets directed by a U.S. military supervisor who hands them statements … they are not the real legitimate government that represents Iraq. The `poll` numbers show up to 80 percent of Iraqis say “NO” to the occupation, that it should end now, and that their lives are better off with no American troops in Iraq.

What other ways can someone get involved in helping to end this war?

We should use … class-to-class communication, street-to-street communication, neighborhood-to-neighborhood communication, to see what’s going on in Iraq, because what we see here is not right. The mainstream media is controlled by a group of people, and I don’t think they work for the interests of the young people and the new generations.

We need to work collectively together by brainstorming to come up with creative, nonviolent means to reach out and stop the violence. The most important thing each individual can do is to think globally, but act locally, not geographically from where his house or community is, or her city or village, no. Locally within one’s self. We need to discover the peace within our self. By meditation, by prayer, by participating in vigils, by contemplating. The conscience is the court that never needs a judge, because we know what’s right and what’s wrong. 


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