The Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf has had a dual historical role as both holy shrine and rallying point against foreign forces. Henry Chu and Teresa Watanabe of The Los Angeles Times focus on the mosque at the center of the showdown between Muqtada Sadr’s militia and U.S. troops. Najaf governor Adnan Zurfi reportedly gave permission to U.S. troops to fire upon the Iman Ali Mosque if necessary, but many Shiites dismiss Zurfi’s authority, considering the governor compromised by his association with U.S. officials. Muslim religious and political leaders from Iran to Los Angeles have warned that an American assault on the shrine would devastate the U.S. image in Iraq and the Muslim world.

A 1991 Canadian provincial law, the Arbitration Act, has been supporting the practice of sharia law in Ontario to mediate legal disputes such as divorce and child custody, Susan Bourette reports in The Christian Science Monitor. The law, intended to ease the burden on Canada’s court system and to enrich the country’s multiculturalist doctrine, grants religious leaders the authority to mediate civil matters. Last spring though, after a Muslim group proposed creating a formalized tribunal, the issue of sharia became an explosive controversy that led to a government review of the law. A report on the findings is due next month, with the expected result that the legislation will be substantially rewritten.

The Anti-Defamation League has condemned Ralph Nader for comments suggesting that President Bush and Congress were “puppets” of the Israeli government, Brian Faler of The Washington Post reports. The ADF objected to Nader’s characterization of Israel as a “puppeteer,” as an outdated and bigoted stereotype that has “‘no place in legitimate public discourse.’” Nader, in a letter to be released today, noted the Israeli peace groups that share his opinion of their country’s leadership, and asked the ADF to cite a recent example of American leaders acting on policies opposed by the Israeli government.