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To Tame The Warring Soul

from the New York Times

A New Role for Iraqi Militants: Patrons of the Arts

Stephen Farrell/The New York Times

An art exhibition in Baghdad was sponsored by the movement of an anti-American cleric.

Published: February 13, 2009

BAGHDAD — Two years ago the American authorities arrested Sheik Mazin al-Saedi, a senior aide to the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr, accusing him of organizing kidnappings and killings.

This week in Baghdad, the city once terrorized by those killings, Sheik Mazin mingled in a white-walled art gallery as the patron of an exhibition of paintings and sculptures that would not, exactly, be out of place in Chelsea or SoHo: abstract art, expressionist paintings and conceptual works larded with symbols of Iraq’s ancient history and today’s reality.

The goal was “to show the entire world that we are not as the media portrays us, a movement that believes only in bearing arms and knows no culture other than that of violence,” Sheik Mazin said of Mr. Sadr’s movement, which is widely blamed for its part in the violence that followed the American invasion in 2003.

“The Sadr movement,” he said, “is also one that believes in ideas and encourages and patronizes the arts.”

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Posted on February 18, 2009 by Editor

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