24 February 2006

After the anti-Mohammad-cartoon riots in Nigeria turned into an ugly mob attack by Muslims on Christian communities and churches — killing at least 25, torturing a bishop’s family, and burning between 11 and 30 churches — Christian mobs retaliated with equally ugly attacks on Muslims — burning their corpses on stacks of tires in the streets — leaving an overall deathtoll of nearly 150 people, and displacing thousands. The country, which is divided fairly evenly between Christians and Muslims, has declared a night-time curfew, and as always, there are deep political misgivings underlying the religious conflict: a president who may seek an unconstitutional third term; the imposition of Sharia law onto the Christian south; and a series of deadly riots in recent years over the 9/11 attacks and Nigeria’s failure to host the Miss World pageant. Elsewhere, ten Libyans died in an attempt to storm the Italian embassy during a protest over an Italian Minister wearing a T-shirt printed with the infamous cartoons, and a Pakistani mob burned a church after rumors that a local Christian had burned pages of the Qur’an. And in Iraq, at least 150 people were killed yesterday over riots that began with the bombing of the Shiite Golden Mosque in Samarra, counting among the dead 47 men dragged from cars after a protest against the bombing, a number of Basra inmates dragged from prison, at least 10 Sunni imams killed in conjunction with the attacks on 168 Sunni mosques. As one imam told The Times, describing the country’s fears of impending civil war, “‘We fear that the Americans will simply stand by and watch as we slaughter one another. For blood only begets blood. We have no idea what will become of us.’”