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Iraqis protest Saturdays off

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    Some Iraqis protest having Saturday off. Many associate it with Jewish Sabbath The Associated Press www.uruknet.info/?p=10028 BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqis are
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 3 1:33 PM
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      Some Iraqis protest having Saturday off.
      Many associate it with Jewish Sabbath
      The Associated Press
      www.uruknet.info/?p=10028


      BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqis are complaining about their first-ever
      weekend break, and some high-school students even went to class
      Saturday to protest a decision introducing a second weekly day off
      that coincides with the Jewish Sabbath.

      It's not that the Iraqis do not want time off — they just want the
      extra day moved to Thursday.

      "We don't want Saturday! It's a Jewish holiday!" students chanted as
      they marched in protest last week to the governor's office in
      Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad.

      A high-school student pulled out a hand grenade and started waving
      it, and police fired into the air to disperse the crowd. At least
      three students reportedly were injured in the ensuing scuffle.

      Schools open
      At Baghdad's University of Mustansariyah, a statement issued by a
      student union believed to be allied with the radical Shiite cleric
      Muqtada al-Sadr described Saturday as "the Zionist holiday" and said
      the government order should not be followed.

      "We declare a general strike in the University of Mustansariyah to
      reject this decision and any decision aimed at depriving Iraqis of
      their identity," the statement said.

      In predominantly Sunni Muslim Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad,
      the al-Mutawakal high school opened its doors after insurgents
      threatened to kill its teachers if they took the day off.

      There is no clear-cut rule for weekends in the Middle East and other
      Muslim countries in the region.

      In Lebanon, the weekend starts at 11:30 a.m. Friday and includes
      Sunday.

      In Jordan, the weekend is Friday and Saturday. Bahrain, Egypt and
      Kuwait have Thursday and Friday off, while conservative Iran and
      Saudi Arabia only give Friday off.

      In many Baghdad districts, including Shiite-dominated Sadr City,
      students and civil servants ignored the decree and went to school
      and work. At Sadr City's al-Fazilah secondary girls school, all 400
      girls showed up for class.

      "Sadr City is a Shiite Islamic city and we reject Saturday being our
      holiday because it is related to the Jewish weekend," said student
      union leader Safaa Dawoud Mahmoud, 18.

      Sit ins threatened

      The student body delivered a letter to the school's administrators
      demanding that Thursday and Friday be the official weekend "because
      both days were blessed in Islam and by Sharia," or Islamic law.

      The students, dressed in long skirts with their hair covered by
      dense black veils, vowed to stage sit-ins until the government
      reverses its decision and makes Thursday the first day of a two-day
      weekend.

      "We will keep going to school with determination and persistence" on
      Saturday, sixth-grader Nassen Dawoud said.

      "We can't be like Jews. Saturday is a Jewish holiday and I hope the
      government listens to us," sixth-grader Nada Alwan, said.

      The influential Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars, believed to be
      close to the insurgency, said that by making Saturday a weekend "the
      invaders, the occupiers are trying to impose their principles" on
      Iraq.

      "This decision is dangerous," it said.

      In Samarra, one teacher said on condition of anonymity that he had
      received death threats from militants warning him not to take
      Saturdays off.

      In Ramadi, the heart of the insurgency in the so-called Sunni
      Triangle, the head of Anbar University decided to change the weekend
      on its own.

      "The official weekend is Thursday and Friday," the university
      announced.

      © 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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