Sunday, October 30, 2005

Glimpse of Iraq, glimpse of hope

I found it.

Several hours ago I read something that stuck in my head and I lost the source. I didn't recognize it was important at the time, but something kept the thought from disappearing. It involves an idea that Abu Khaleel mentioned that was underscored by a totally different source. That idea is central to solving the ongoing mystery that has been dogging me for weeks: what is the connection between Iran and Iraq, and what are the disconnects?

Look at this:

The rise of the Shiites, Iraq's long-suppressed majority, is one of the most thrilling consequences of Saddam Hussein's overthrow. There is a vast body of scholarly writing about them, but for most reporters - myself included - Yitzhak Nakash's "Shi'is of Iraq" is the most accessible study. Nakash, a professor of Middle Eastern history at Brandeis University, influenced the thinking of some of us by showing that Iraq's Shiites developed on a different historical track than their coreligionists in Iran, and do not generally believe in the wilayat al-faqhi, or the rulership of the clerics. That difference helped to explain why Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most revered religious figure, has not used his vast power over Shiite believers to intervene even more directly in Iraq's politics. It may also help to check Iran's much-feared influence over its neighbor.

That is Robert F. Worth writing in the New York Times, an essay titled The Reporter's Arab Library. (Times Select, so you have to register and pay to read the rest. Good essay, but the rest is beside my point.)

Now look at this, Abu Khaleel describing the difference between the way Iraqis and Iranians differ in how they relate to their common faith.

Although they never admit it, Iraqis are generally and characteristically rather ‘casual’ about their religion and their adherence to it. This should not be taken at face value. They generally hold it in great esteem and will not tolerate any attack on it; they just don’t adhere to what they regard as ‘inconvenient’ aspects of it. Iranians, on the other hand, are for some reason traditionally more attached to their religion - probably to the extent of being zealot about it!

Iraq is almost universally seen as a holy land by many religious Iranians: It is the land where so many of the divine Imams are buried… and the land where the 12th Absent Imam, the Mehdi, disappeared. It was also the seat of the Shiite supreme clergy.

I don't think I am reading too much into his words to conclude that both sources are saying basically the same thing.

So here is an a UPI story illustrating the same idea:

Grand Ayatollah Sistani, one of the most revered Shiite clerics in Iraq, told Iraqis to vote their consciences in the election, refusing to endorse a party.

Sistani made his position clear through a Friday sermon by Sheikh Abdul Mahdi al-Karbalai in the holy city of Karbala, the BBC reported.

"The marja (Sistani) enjoins Iraqis to participate massively in the forthcoming elections, but does not support any political group in particular," he said. "It's up to Iraqis to make their choice based on their beliefs."

In January's election, Sistani backed the United Iraqi Alliance, helping it win a majority. The Alliance has joined other Shiite parties in a united bloc for the upcoming election, while two Kurdish parties and three Sunni parties have formed two more blocs.

There is hope for the political process as long as clerics resist the impulse to override that process by instructing the faithful how they should behave. Iraqis will learn from experience that there is a better way to govern infidels than by outlawing them politically, emasculating them socially, and punishing them generally when they fail to do as they are told. If and when a "loyal opposition" forms will democracy have a firm footing.

It is easier said than done, but with a Shiite majority the saying part comes easier than the doing part.

Now if we could just get our own clerics to keep their hands off politics...
Talk about a crazy idea!

No comments: