Although Shia Muslims take part in the march each year to mark the Arbaeen, or mourning, anniversary of Imam Husain – a seventh-century leader who fought for social justice – this year organisers decided to use the event as a platform to denounce terrorism following the recent Isis attacks in Paris, Beirut and elsewhere.
Organiser Waqar Haider said: “This year we had hundreds of placards which were basically saying ‘no’ to terrorism and ‘no’ to Isis. A very direct message.
“For us it was a controversial move to go political. Normally we don’t mix politics with mourning. However with what’s happened recently, we thought we had to make sure we as a community totally disassociate ourselves with what’s happening elsewhere in the world.”
Mr Al-Sharifi told The Independent: “I think the reason the mainstream media hasn’t covered the story is because I don’t think it’s juicy enough to sell papers. It’s simply not interesting enough.”
“Unfortunately [some] media outlets have gone for stories that to some extent can be divisive. If a group of Muslims do something good, it’s not mentioned or the religion is not mentioned. But if someone does something [negative], it is on the front page and their religion is mentioned.”
“It’s feeding this hatred and divisiveness and demonisation, I think, of Muslims.”
He said the media had an increased level of responsibility to create a cohesive society.
“The reason my tweet went viral… is because I think people realise there is a huge disparity between what they’re being fed in the media and the reality of the day-to-day interactions they have with Muslims at work, at school.”
Mr Al-Sharifi called on the country’s leadership to counter Islamophobia.
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The Arbaeen processions take place in other locations around the world including Iraq, Nigeria and the US.