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‘Iraqi society won’t welcome segregation of sexes at universities:’ Muqtada al-Sadr

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The Iraqi religious leader Muqtada al-Sadr has said that it is better to educate university students with “religion and good morals,” instead of segregating the sexes, Al Sumaria News TV reported on Wednesday.

The Shiite leader who is the head of the Sadr political bloc, has rejected calls made by conservatives leaders demanding the segregation of sexes, saying it is “not so welcome” for society.

He said “the society currently [can] not accept such change with an open heart” and that forcing students “won’t be in their good interest.”

Last year in December, a reverent Shiite cleric in the holy city of Najaf, Bashir al-Najafi, called on Iraqi education minister, Ali al-Adeeb, “to stop mixing and halt ‘cheekiness’” at educational institutes.

He also urged him to stop a culture he claimed was instilled with foreign agendas to steer students from the real purpose of education.

The minister responded by saying that the ministry cannot impose religious beliefs and morals on students, but promotes Islamic culture as it is the country’s prevalent religion.

Political analyst Brahim al-Samaidai’i told Al Sumaria News that “Iraq is not Taliban, and Baghdad is not Tehran or Riyadh,” and that the clergy should not interfere.

An attack on civil liberties is not news in Iraq.

In December 2010, the education ministry, under the leadership of a conservative minister banned theater and music classes in Baghdad’s Fine Arts Institute and ordered the rest of the country’s provinces to follow suit.

However the return of a more liberal education minister, hailing from the more secular Iraqiya List, saw the resumption of classes.

Just last month, reports of dozens of “emo” youth (a term that denotes a certain style of western attire and ideology behind it) being stoned to death, emerged. The killings highlighted the fragility of the country’s democratic structure and the challenges faced by Iraq to keep civil freedoms intact.

Sadr said the issue of the “emo” youth should be dealt with only through the law.

“They are a plague on Muslim society, and those responsible should eliminate them through legal means.”

Sadr however did not clarify what he meant when he said that the youth should be legally eliminated.

(Written by Dina al-Shibeeb)