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A Triad Muslim leader has determined to put himself in harm's way should the United States attack Iraq.
[Courtesy Nick Maheras)

Badi Ali, president of the Islamic Center of the Triad, said he and a group of some 15 like-minded people will leave for Iraq around the end of the month. The Islamic Center of the Triad is one of Greensboro's largest mosques. Ali, a native Palestinian and naturalized American citizen, said he thought of the human shield idea months ago as a way to protect innocent Iraqis.

Since then, some European opponents of a U.S. war with Iraq also have mobilized to act as human shields.

"What motivated me was the reaction I witnessed from the European people," he said.

"From what I've been hearing ... human shields from Europe are there and are stationed."

Ali's objective, he states in an e-mail, is to position Americans at strategic locations across Baghdad to forestall a U.S. attack on innocent Iraqi civilians.

Ali said he's working with other peace groups and several Iraqi nongovernmental agencies to arrange lodging there. "We will likely stay at, or near, strategic locations such as hospitals, orphanages, shelters and power facilities," he said.

Ali has journeyed to Iraq several times for Islamic conferences, but this time the danger will be very real, he said.

"Please take care of your personal affairs here in the United States," he instructed those going with him. "Prepare a legal will and also contact relatives and friends to let them know of your intentions."

He said the group plans to stay at least a couple of weeks in Baghdad. His sympathies lie not with Saddam Hussein, Ali said, but with the innocent Iraqi people.

"This is ultimately for the Iraqi people," he said. "We are going there to save lives. This has nothing to do with politics.

"I consider myself a loyal American. By actually acting in such a manner, I am being loyal to the (U.S.) Constitution and to the Bill of Rights more than those who chose not to react."

Although President Bush has stressed the American military is not targeting innocent Iraqis, Ali said he realizes his life and those of his companions could be forfeit.

"In a war, anything could happen," he said. "I'm not afraid at all. I'm looking forward to it.

"If something happened to us, it will not be for nothing. To sacrifice your life with the intention to save a life, that's really worth it to me."

Ali said he will conduct a meeting Monday to finalize the details of the trip. Not all the people who will travel with him are Muslims.

"We received a lot of support," he said, "especially here in this country from the Quakers."

2003-02-07 Fri 08:01ct