By Mustafa Saadoun for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.*
The Iraqi government, headed by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, is seeking to penalize*people for*the hate speech prevalent in Iraqi society by arresting anyone who expresses such ideas or promotes slogans that insult former or current religious and social figures.
Each year around*this time,*millions of Shiite Muslims*make the pilgrimage to the shrine of Imam Hussein*in Karbala for the*festival of Arbaeen.*People observing*Arbaeen*sometimes*raise banners*and shout slogans insulting Sunni figures. In the past, these people were met with*public indignation*—*but not legal measures.
Wahab al-Tai, the interior minister’s media adviser, told Al-Monitor in an interview, “Up until Nov. 8,*the ministry*had arrested 76 people who were caught promoting sectarianism.*Out of the 76 arrested, 25 were in Karbala and 51 in Babil [province]. Most were Iraqis, but some foreigners were arrested as well.”
The Interior Ministry was reacting to a video that has been circulating. The video, taken in Karbala during the festival, shows*a group of followers of Shiite Grand Ayatollah*Sadiq Hussaini Shirazi*—*a group*known for promoting hateful speech toward important Sunni religious figures. The video shows a young man*with a loudspeaker cursing*Umar ibn al-Khattab, a senior companion of the Prophet Muhammad*considered sacred by Sunnis. Despite all the arrests, that man is still on the loose.
Only two days after appearing in the first video, the same man*appeared in another video saying that he was only “expressing his opinion.”
The ministry’s measures against promoters*of sectarianism received both political and public support. Sayyid Ahmad al-Safi, the representative of Shiite*Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani*in Najaf, applauded the move*in his Friday sermon*in Karbala on Nov. 10.


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