Reporters on the Job

What the Sayyeds Say: Correspondent Sam Dagher say that he ran across an unusually number of "Sayyeds" while reporting about the efforts of Sunnis and Shiites to protect their mosques in Baghdad (see story). He notes that the title Sayyed signifies someone who can claim kinship to Islam's prophet Muhammad and has a special status in Iraqi society and in Shiite Islam particularly. (There is a similar concept among Sunnis. For example, families with the surname Hashemi [such as Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi] are known as "Sada Ashraf." This title also signifies kinship to the prophet.)

"First, I met with Sayyed Ammar al-Hakim, who is the son of Sayyed Abdul Aziz al-Hakim leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council party. He was wearing a black turban, a Sayyed hallmark, and an elegant kaftan and a camel-hair cloak," says Sam.

Then, Sam visited the central Baghdad mosque bearing the name of Sayyed Idriss, the prophet's grandson, who is entombed in a mausoleum in the mosque. "And there was Sayyed Hussein al-Jazairi, who is a turban-less modern sayyed of sorts in black Levi's jeans and sneakers. He heads the armed group that protects Sayyed Idriss," says Sam. This militia is loyal to Sayyed Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric.

"One of Sayyed Hussein's followers said to me as I left the mosque: 'I hope you are not gathering information on Sayyed Hussein [the militia leader] to give it to the Americans.'

"I smiled and said: 'No I am gathering information on Sayyed Idriss,' a purposely ambiguous response."

– David Clark Scott
World editor

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