Sunday, February 20, 2005

An Iraqi Pat Robertson?

Ayatollah Al sistani
seems to be the big leading figure of Iraq these days – when you see his picture, he looks as scary as Khomeini but is actually very different. He is definitely much harder to figure out from a western perspective.
A lot of his views seem paradoxical:
  • First, it should be noticed that not only is he a Shiite but he is Iranian-born, and arrived in Iraq some 50 years ago. But at the same time, he has carefully kept his distance from official Iranians. He was also the great competitor of Khomeini, and is now revered throughout the Islamic world and has far more personal followers in Iran than the theocratic hard-liners there.
  • he wants Iraq's new constitution to be in line with Islamic principles, yet at the same time he is also against any role for the clerics in the governance or administration of the country.
  • he encouraged women to vote as they want (Something that the Saudis still have to learn) but his teaching does not allow them to shake the hand of any man other than a father, brother or husband. - - His life is very austere He rarely eats meat, insisting on a peasant diet of yogurt and rice. Incidentally, he also forbids music for entertainment, dancing and playing chess, while his office is Internet-wired.
  • he has condemned the occupation, but has never issued a fatwa against it, and has even called voting in the last elections an 'Islamic duty'.

In fact, his 'philosophy' has been compared to a Muslim version of that of the Christian coalition – not supporting that clerics rule the nation, but that religious ideals govern policy.


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