On Wednesday, Aug. 31, upwards of a thousand Muslim pilgrims died in a panic on a bridge in Baghdad. In a matter of minutes there were at least half as many fatalities as American forces have suffered so far in the entire Iraq War. This time there was no suicide bomber, but fear of an attack proved just as deadly.

The pilgrimage that left so many women and children dead was itself an act of mourning for the execution 1200 years ago of the seventh Imam in Shi’a tradition, Imam Musa ibn Ja’far al-Sadiq. Partisans believe the imam was poisoned by the fabled “Arabian Nights” Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid while he was in the custody of the chief of police in Baghdad. Musa ibn Ja’far lingered on for three days until achieving martyrdom in the eyes of his countless followers over the centuries. (more…)