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Indybay Feature
Sat Feb 12 2005
Religious Parties Pushing For Islamic Law In Iraq
Sat Feb 12 2005
Could Iraq Become A Theocracy?
Cricket is allowed but chess is "absolutely forbidden". Women may not shake hands with men. Music is permitted but only if it is not for enjoyment. Men cannot pray when wearing earrings. These are the views of the most powerful man in Iraq. ... As the election victory of the Shias has confirmed, the most influential figure in Iraq, dressed in tattered grey robe and black turban, is Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. - UK Independent

"Sistani has never met an American official or soldier. He did not vote in Iraq’s elections last month. And yet this religious recluse could wield more influence over Iraq’s destiny than all the foreign troops and Iraqi politicians put together." Sistani leads the five most important clerics, known as marja al-taqlid, or objects of emulation. A statement released by Sheikh Ibrahim Ibrahimi, a representative of Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Ishaq al-Fayad, one of the marja, has stated that "if they (the government) want the stability and security of the country, they must not touch the country's Islamic values and traditions." The statement continued, "All of the ulema (clergy) and marja, and the majority of the Iraqi people, want the national assembly to make Islam the source of legislation in the permanent Constitution and to reject any law that is contrary to Islam." A source close to Sistani announced soon after that the spiritual leader backed the demand. "The marja has priorities concerning the formation of the government and the Constitution. It wants the source of legislation to be Islam." Even though Sistani has openly rejected Khomeini's religious model for governing, "he is not proposing the kind of secularism that U.S. or any other Western politicians have in mind...Under the Sistani model of separation of religion and politics, representatives of the grand ayatollahs would play a highly visible and crucial role in framing the constitution, especially regarding the maintenance of Islamic identity. In fact, it can be argued that the entire involvement of Sistani since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq has been a perfect example of how the power of the marjaiah [the ayatollah's representatives] has been imposed on the mandarins of the secular superpower. It was Sistani who demanded speedy elections. He knew what the outcome of that election was going to be. When Bush balked about holding elections, Sistani demonstrated his power by calling on his followers to fill the Iraqi streets in protest. It was he who insisted that the United Nations should be brought back to conduct or to oversee the conducting of elections in Iraq. It was Sistani's refusal to condemn the U.S. presence in Iraq that kept the Shiite protest a minor problem for the Western occupying forces. Sistani's role in calming the firebrand rhetoric and activities of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr should not be underestimated. It was Sistani, once again, who issued a religious decree exhorting the Shiites to vote as a religious obligation."

While sectarian strife has dominated much of the news, the main Sunni Arab political parties have a similar vision for Iraq's future as Sistani. The Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS), the largest Sunni religious authority in Iraq has stressed that Iraq's future constitution should embrace Islamic law. The Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest Sunni political group, also rejects the separation of religion and state in the new constitution. “We want a constitution founded in Islam and accepted by all Iraqi parties,” the party’s secretary general, Tariq Al-Hashimi, told the press. Sunnis account for about 20 percent of Iraq's 28 million people and while their boycott of the Jan 30th election is likely to result in few Sunnis in the transitional national assembly, their power lies in their links to the Iraqi resistance. Stability in Iraq cannot be achived without the consent of the Sunni and many Shiite leaders have been quick to realize this. Muqtada al-Sadr, whose followers appear to be doing well in many Southern provinces, is reaching out to Sunni clerics for coordination. Sistani's UIA is likely to do the same.

For non-religious Iraqis the future looks bleak "The parties that have power in colleges" are already "the Iranian inclined Shia parties like Da’awa and SCIRI. Student representatives in colleges and universities these days mainly come from the abovementioned parties. They harass Christian and Muslim girls about what they should and shouldn’t wear. They invite students to attend “latmiyas” (mainly Shia religious festivities where the participants cry and beat themselves in sorrow over the killing of the Prophet’s family) and bully the cafeteria or canteen guy into not playing music during Ramadhan and instead showing the aforementioned latmiyas and Shia religious lectures by Ayatollah So-and-So and Sayid Something-or-Another."

`Sistani tsunami' sweeps away Bush plan | The Shi'ites' Faustian pact | Sectarian massacres shake Iraq | Noam Chomsky | Riverbend: And Life Goes On...
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