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Believers point worryingly to statements made in Internet postings and on ultraconservative Sunni satellite channels from the Gulf calling for Zainab’s destruction.

While the threats represent a minority, extremist point of view, they are being taken seriously on the streets of Iraq.

Tears welled up in Rasheed al-Sheikh’s eyes when he was asked about the Syrian shrine last week. The 75-year-old money-changer, who does business in Baghdad’s Shiite Kazimiyah neighborhood, heard of threats to the shrine from other merchants.

He said he fully supported sending fighters to Syria.

“Of course this is a good thing. We all love the shrines,” Mr. al-Sheikh said, growing emotional at the thought that the holy sites could be harmed. Sunni extremists, he said, “are serious about these threats. They’ve done it many times before.”