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Rivers of Babylon

An eagle-eyed businessman spots a commercial opportunity amid the increasing segregation of Iraq's Sunnis and Shias—a customised Shia mobile phone

By Nibras Kazimi   December 2007

My mobile phone, my sect

What do you get when you combine an unscrupulous Levantine merchant, a Singapore-based mobile phone manufacturer and sectarian tensions in Iraq? A business opportunity.

Ilkone Asia has been marketing its new i-800 handset as the “biggest Islamic-related product since the advent of prayer beads.” The phone features the full text of the Koran, as approved by the Sunni authorities at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, and a GPS compass that orients the faithful to Mecca. It punctually belts out the adhan, the Muslim call to prayer, five times a day; one can also set the alarm…

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