Iraq’s Booming Funeral Market

May 13, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Afif Sarhan, IslamOnline.net

2010-05-11T080728Z_1227782277_GM1E65B18RJ01_RTRMADP_3_IRAQ-VIOLENCE

Residents carry a coffin of a victim who was killed in Monday’s bomb attack during a funeral in Basra, 420 km (260 miles) southeast of Baghdad, May 11, 2010. Bombers and gunmen officials linked to a battered but still lethal al Qaeda killed more than 100 people on Monday during a day-long wave of attacks on markets, a textile factory, checkpoints and other sites across Iraq.

REUTERS/Atef Hassan

BAGHDAD – With deadly attacks still claiming more lives in the war-torn country, the funeral market in Iraq has turned from a simple work into a booming business.
“Before US-led invasion, I had one ceremony to take care,” mourner Ali Abdel-Kareem al-Shuwafi, 48, told IslamOnline.net on Friday, October 30.

“But in the last four years, I had to hire 12 employees and other 15 who are used when we have many ceremonies to hold in the same day.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed in violence plaguing Iraq since the US invaded the country in 2003 to topple the Saddam Hussein regime.

“Violence in Iraq changed my life. I know that it isn’t a nice sentence to say but it is the true,” said Shuwafi.

“The continuing killings in my country helped me become a wealthy man and able to give a very good life to my family who years ago were suffering with the need of everything.”

Before the US invasion, Shuwafi was hardly able to provide basics to his family.

But his life has totally changed after the US troops invaded the oil-rich country.

“I decided to open a shop in Baghdad two years ago which takes care of everything, the three days mourning process, the burying and other ceremonies asked by our clients,” he said.

Shuwafi had borrowed money from a friend of his to open his shop.

“After few months, I had enough to pay him back and open more two shops, one in Baghdad and one in Basra where my brother takes care,” he said.

“I know I’m successful today because of people suffering, however, I didn’t kill them and just made a way for families to be well supported in a so hard moment of their lives.

“The war changed my life for better but I sometimes I wish that things were like before and I would had been able to improve my living conditions under other ways offered by the government.”

Lucrative

Like Shuwafi, many mourning professionals have made a fortune from the deadly violence.

“There was periods where I had to refuse ceremonies because I didn’t have enough materials to organize it,” Kamal al-Jumeiri, a funeral business owner in Baghdad, told IOL.

“During 2006 and 2007 I was able to make enough money to send my family away to Jordan to protect them and I use to visit my kids and wife every three months.

“My family accuse me of taking advantage and making money from people who were victims but someone had to make it and I had enough conditions to offer my skills.”

Jumeiri recalls that he only owned two coffins to run his business before the US invasion.

“After violence in 2006, I had enough money to open two shops,” he said.

“By two trucks, I import supplies from outside with better quality, offer a proper burial with all stuff needed like chairs for the mourners, recorders, speakers, people to read Qur’anic verses, kitchen apparatus to cook food during the three days ceremony, generators, tents and other specific things that sometimes is asked by grieving families.”

According to Iraqi traditions, families rent tents for the three days of mourning and professional mourners to add emotions by crying while speaking verses of the Qur’an.

In addition, coffee, tea and cigarettes should be offered to visitors during the three days of mourning.

In the last day, food is cooked and offered to all people present, including poor people who usually get close to get free food.

“I moved from a simple mourning workers into a first-class business and most of my clients have wealthy living conditions and hire my work due to my excellent materials used,” said Jumeiri.

The booming funeral market is also sparking rivalry among mourning professionals.

“I suffered threats from other mourning professionals,” said Jumeiri.

“Many of them, not all, have organised gangs to prevent us from keeping work and leave all ceremonies to them but I insisted and have to pay a security guard to follow me.”

Prices for the funeral services have skyrocketed over the violence.

“I lost my father before invasion from heart disease and didn’t spend more than US $50 for all ceremony and coffin,” Haydar Muhammad Khalif, a government employee, told IOL.

“But two months ago, my uncle was killed and we had to pay US $300 for the same ceremony, without any changes.”

Coffins now cost about $80, from only $10 before the US invasion.

A complete ceremony would cost from $150 to $400, from only $60 before the invasion.

“Even to die in Iraq you have to have enough money or you will have to be buried without proper Iraqi Muslim traditions,” said Khalif.

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Being A Muslim Soldier at Fort Hood

November 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

IslamOnline.net & Newspapers

CAIRO – Every morning, Sgt. Fahad Kamal reports for work at Fort Hood military base to treat ailing soldiers returning from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Being a good Muslim means being good to everyone,” Kamal, a Muslim army medic, told The Dallas Morning News on Sunday, November 22.

The 26-year-old, who served in Afghanistan before moving to Fort Hood, spends most of his time treating his traumatized fellow soldiers.

On November 5, Kamal heard the news that a Muslim army physician went on a shooting rampage in the military base, killing 13 people and wounding 30.
Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a Muslim army psychiatrist, is the sole suspect in the shooting.

Immediately, Kamal joined his fellows in rescuing the wounded of the attack, refusing to leave the base to see if Fort Hood needed help treating victims.
The Muslim combat medic said that Islam is against violence.

“That man happened to be a Muslim, but in our religion, we don’t condone such violence.”

*Fort Hood Tragedy… Muslim Soldiers Speak Out

Maj. Derrill Guidry, another Muslim soldier at Fort Hood, agrees.

“He (Hasan) cracked under the pressure of his own fears,” he said.

“In terms of Islam, he was just plain wrong.”

The Fort Hood attack drew immediate condemnation from all leading American Muslim organizations, including Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).

US Muslim groups have also launched a fund to help the families of the Fort Hood victims.

Tolerant Army

Since joining the army, Kamal has been open about his Islamic faith, answering his fellow soldiers’ questions about the religion.

“Jesus is one of our prophets as well,” Kamal answers his fellow soldiers, to their great surprise.

When Kamal first decided to sign up for the army, his mom initially refused, fearing discrimination.

“I was scared,” his mother, Nabeela, said.

“I didn’t want him to be far from the family, because he is my oldest son. Father was going through chemotherapy at that time.”

The mother had another concern.

“Are they going to look down on you?” she asked.

“Mom, this is America,” Kamal answered.

At his military service, Kamal easily mixed with soldiers of other faiths, swapping gifts with friends at Christmas and feasting on both roast turkey and biryani on Thanksgiving Day.

Concerns have been growing about anti-Muslim backlash over the Fort Hood shooting.

US Army chief of staff General George Casey has warned that the attack could prompt a backlash against Muslim soldiers.

But Kamal says that he has never felt discriminated against as a Muslim in the US military.

He even sees the Army as more knowledgeable and tolerant of Islam than the general public.

The Muslim soldier recalls one day when he was bantering with a fellow soldier, when he ribbed his friend, saying “You loser!”

“You terrorist!” the fellow soldier replied.

Though the soldier was joking, the drill sergeant called the guy out in front of everyone.

“You window licker! You peanut butter eater! This Army is diverse,” the sergeant angrily told the soldiers at the drill.

Muslim Patriot

In 2007, Kamal was deployed to a 15-month tour in war-torn Afghanistan.

During his tour in the southern province of Kandhar, Kamal packed a copy of Sura Yaseen, “the heart of the Quran,” in the left chest pocket of his uniform.

The Muslim medic was valued by his commander for his native Urdu language skills, sometimes asking him to translate or brief troops on basic greetings.

He was also admired for remaining calm under pressure.

“I like helping people,” said Kamal. “It feels good to see you made a difference.”

During his tour, Kamal went on night patrols, where soldiers are encountered with improvised explosive devices.

“He’s a very patriotic individual, and he enjoys what he does,” Kamal’s brother, Faez, 23, said.

Many Muslim soldiers have lost their lives during their military tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At Arlington National Cemetery, amid a sea of crosses, there are crescents carved on tombstones. There are Muslim names on Iraq war memorials at Fort Hood.

“We’re serving and sacrificing alongside our fellow service members,” said Jamal Baadani, a Marine Corps veteran who founded the Association for Patriotic Arab Americans in Military after the 9/11 attacks.

There is no official count of Muslims serving in the 1.4 million-strong US armed forces because recruits are not required to state their religion.

But according to the American Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans Affair Council, there are more than 20,000 Muslims serving in the military.

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