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Moqtada Al-Sadr Pursues Education for Ayatollah Status
Moqtada Al-Sadr, leader of the Mahdi Army and peacemaker between rival Shia/Sunni factions, is returning to seminary. He wishes to study further and gain status of Ayatollah, needed to gain credibility outside his hometown region of Sadr City.
Shia cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr is returning to school to become an Ayatollah. Currently the populist Islamic leader isn't trained in formal religious studies, and he wishes to further his education. Becoming an Ayatollah will help with Mr. Al-Sadr's credibility beyond the streets, and the Islamic leaders of the region will need to take him seriously. He already is being heard by the multitudes in Sadr City for his speeches bringing an end to sectarian conflict between Shia/Sunni factions and calling for an end of the U.S. military occupation of Iraq..
Despite Mr. Al-Sadr's realtime successes in bringing peace between rival Islamic factions, his lack of formal religious training has left him isolated from the greater dialogue over Iraq..
"Profile: Muqtada al-Sadr
Muqtada al-Sadr has recently emerged as a Muslim Shia leader who vociferously rejects the US-led occupation in Iraq.
He is seen by many Shia and politicians as a zealous leader who has chosen the wrong time for this escalation of protests.
About 30 years old, al-Sadr is a son of the Grand Ayat Allah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, a prominent Iraqi Shia leader who was killed in 1999 along with two of his other sons.
Hardly known outside Iraq, and lacking the religious education and degrees required by Shia doctrines, al-Sadr bases his religious authority on his lineage."
Moqtada Al-sadr is leading the peaceful street level resistance to the U.S. occupation of Iraq. His popularity has increased since making calls for unity between the warring Shia and Sunni factions, that Iraq's people remain together in Islam, and join forces to drive out the U.S. military occupation. Mr. Al-Sadr has also spoken out against the privatization of Iraqi petroleum supplies as this takes the resources out from under the feet of the Iraqi people. In this case, Mr. Al-Sadr is speaking in the interest of the Iraqi people, as oppossed to the Supreme Islamic Council (Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani) that are essentially collaborator puppets of the GW Bush regime and U.S. petroleum corporations..
Al-Sadr made it clear how he feels about U.S. military attempts claimed by the GW Bush regime to "bring democracy to Iraq";
"Mr Sadr resurfaced recently after disappearing - possibly over the border to Iran - when the US began its security "surge" in Baghdad early this year. He ordered his fighters in Sadr City, the Mahdi Army stronghold in the capital, not to resist the operation. Last week the US military said it wanted to open direct, peaceful talks with him, but the cleric told the IoS he rejected the idea.
"There is nothing to talk about," he said angrily. "The Americans are occupiers and thieves, and they must set a timetable to leave this country. We must know that they are leaving, and we must know when." He has reason to be wary of US offers to negotiate. As revealed by The Independent last month, respected Iraqi political figures believe the US army tried to kill or capture Mr Sadr after luring him to peace talks in Najaf in 2004.
"We are fighting the enemy that is greater in strength, but we are in the right," he said. "Even if that means our deaths, we will not stand idly by and suffer from this occupation. Islam exhorts us to die with dignity rather than live in shame."
Mr Sadr did not say how he thought the US planned to kill him. But it is clear his decision to stay out of the public eye for months was prompted by safety fears, amid a crackdown on the Mahdi Army that has seen key figures arrested and killed."
Clearly Mr. Al-Sadr's lack of formal religious training is being exploited by the more experienced leaders in Islam, and not for the benefit of the Iraqi people. This author wishes Mr. Al-Sadr a rewarding educational experience and best wishes towards gaining his status as Ayatollah..
"Becoming an ayatollah — one of the highest Shiite clerical positions — would give the 33-year-old al-Sadr an important new voice and aura.
It also would give him fresh clout to challenge his top rival, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, which looks to Iranian-born Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani as its highest religious authority and has its own armed wing, the Badr Brigade, which have been largely absorbed into Iraqi security forces.
As an ayatollah, his views and fatwas, or religious edicts, would resonate with even more authority as the battles heat up for sway over Iraq's Shiite heartland.
Comparisons are often drawn between al-Sadr's strategy — a mix of militia strength, well-tuned street politics and social outreach — and the hallmarks of Hezbollah, which has been influenced by Lebanon's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, as well Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of Iran's 1979 Islam Revolution.
"If ... Muqtada becomes a religious authority, the entire movement will grow stronger," said one of the aides who described al-Sadr's seminary studies to the AP.
The al-Sadr associates — three in all — spoke on condition of anonymity. Their accounts, made in separate interviews, were in broad agreement."
Beyond the religious aspect, Mr. Al-Sadr is correct when evaluating the motives behind the GW Bush regime's insistance of the ongoing U.S. military occupation of Iraq. The privatization of Iraq's petroleum comes as no surprise to Mr. Al-Sadr, and the lack of any realtime withdrawal plans of the U.S. military appears hinged on the privatization plans..
"A representative from the Islamic Party, a prominent Sunni formation, speculated that the Shiite bloc of Muqtada al-Sadr's followers would unite with them in opposing any oil law that was excessively permissive toward foreign oil companies.
"In fact, we are scared of the oil investment issue because we don't trust the political process that was formed during Bremer," concurs Sheikh Ghaith Al Temimi, a key Sadr spokesman. He accuses most Iraqi politicians of "stealing oil" and "collaborating" with the occupation, but he was not uniformly hostile to foreign participation in the oil sector. His sentiments seem to summarize the position of most Iraqis: "We would welcome any investment in our oil but under certain conditions. We want our oil to be developed, not stolen. If a bad law were to be passed, all people of Iraq would resist it."