The Iraqia (state TV) replaced the traditional televised call for prayers with a subtitle today. According to Buratha news, a website affiliated with the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq, al-Iraqia managers received an executive order from PM Maliki’s office to use a subtitle instead of the few-minute-long call for the noon prayers. It is expected that the order will extend to replace all other calls for prayers with subtitles. Buratha speculates that the order, which came immediately following Mailiki’s return from the U.S. was a move aimed to facilitate reconciliation efforts in the country.
The issue of televised calls for prayers has been a source of controversy and anxiety in Iraq since 2003. Most Sunnis and secular Iraqis are opposed to broadcasting the call for prayers, particularly the Shiite version of it. Many people saw the practice as a sign of Shiite attempts to impose Shiite identity and practices on everyone else in the country.
The move is likely to be met with positives reactions from Sunni and secular constituencies and political parties. I think they will see in this move a clear sign that Maliki is ready to further dilute his Shiite Islamic identity in favor of a new working political coalition. There's a price for that; Maliki is likely to come under harsh criticism from other Shiite parties who are likely to use this case against him in their electoral campaigns.