Jesus, the hidden imam

This, written and sent by a friend at AFP in Baghdad, is just bizarre:

Iraq-US-Shiites-Jesus-offbeat Iraq Sadr City residents insulted by 'Buddy Jesus'

BAGHDAD, Oct 1, 2006 (AFP) - Iraqi Shiite residents of Sadr City expressed anger on Sunday over a picture of a grinning Jesus they mistook for a Shiite holy figure that appeared in their neighborhood following a joint US-Iraqi operation.

Residents found a picture of "Buddy Jesus" from the 1999 film "Dogma" posted in the streets, accompanied by a badly photocopied pamphlet bearing a crude approximation of a US military crest and outlining a US "plan" to subjugate the area.

"That picture abuses our Imam Mahdi and his holy character, and mocks our sacred figures," said resident Abu Riyam, apparently mistaking the satirical movie still of Jesus for one Shiism's historical imams, whose images adopt a Jesus-like iconography.

The grinning, winking model of Buddy Jesus giving a thumbs-up sign appeared in the comedic film as a fictional attempt by the Catholic Church to present a kinder, more accessible image of Christianity.

"If it wasn't so serious, it would be funny," said a coalition spokesman Major Will Willhoite.

The pamphlets outlined a plan to discredit the militias in the sprawling two million person Baghdad slum, a stronghold of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

"Destabilize security in the militia areas with explosions and assassinations to create panic" and "killing, raping and kidnapping women" were all measures the pamphlet recommended for causing people to lose faith in the militias.


"Do not tell the suspect militias of these plans but keep them among friendly forces," admonished the pamphlet.

The US military did not confirm that it had conducted a raid into Sadr City in the early hours of the morning, but said that an Iraq force with coalition advisors did conduct an operation in "northeast" Baghdad.

Much of Baghdad's violence has been laid at the feet of Shiite militias, many of whom are based in Sadr City, but US forces have yet to enter the neighborhood in force.
And here's the poster:

Buddyjesus
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.