“An Iraqi between posters of prominent Shiite cleric Sheik Muqtada al-Sadr and Imam Ali, first Imam and cousin of prophet Muhammed during Friday prayers in the largest Shiite enclave in Baghdad.” (AP photo/Samir Mizban)

Adam Becker, assistant professor in religious studies at New York University:

This is a great shot. The picture of Ali [right] is the standard one going back to the 19th century. At some point cheesy Christian art had a major influence on Iranian religious art. Ali was the son-in-law of Muhammad and the rightful leader of the Muslim community (the fourth caliph). Since Shia believe that leadership went through the family line, his successor was his son (the prophet’s grandson) Hussein, who was killed by the Umayyad king (the whole taziyehhttp://www.ifvc.com/tazieh-short-synopsis.htm cycle is based on this event). The Shia are the Shiat Ali — the party of Ali. The use of images like these is striking when compared to standard Sunni practice, which would consider this idolatry (this, along with the focus on the suffering of the righteous as well as the strong Shiite philosophical tradition, explains the common analogy made between Catholicism and Shi’ism and Protestantism and Sunnism).

Al-Sadr [left] is the son of the previous al-Sadr, who was assasinated by Saddam’s regime in 1999. http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2003-04-22-shiite-who_x.htm He is the Shiite leader in Baghdad. Saddam City, the Shiite ghetto of Baghdad, was renamed Sadr City, in honor of this Sadr’s father. He took over his father’s role but is young and firey. To the chagrin of the occupation government, he has made numerous statements against the U.S. He also has, like many Shiite clergyman in Iraq, connections with Iran.

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