Discussion Thread February 7, 2005
The Asia Times in its' February 8, 2005 edition.
Sistani begins on his true agenda:
As expected, the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) is emerging as the dominant party, making its chief mentor and spiritual adviser, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the clear winner of the Iraqi elections of January 30 (see Note below). Only US President George W Bush and his tight-lipped advisers know whether this is the beginning of the United States' nightmare in Iraq. Sistani never had any doubts about what he wanted: use the much-cherished democracy of the US invaders to enable his people - the Shi'ites - to emerge as governors of Iraq, after years of being marginalized by the minority Sunnis. The most dominant question is how Islamic the emerging government of Iraq is likely to be.
Even if a "theocracy" is not established in Iraq in the immediate future, a close semblance of it seems to be very much in the cards. The US never understood the significance of Islam to a Muslim country. Believing that the adage "render unto Caesar what's Caesar's and render unto God what's God's" is (or should be) applicable to the entire world, US politicians have been on a global (secular) crusade to transform the world in the image of their own country. They do understand that such a proposition is not only alien to the world of Islam - most established governments have constantly rejected it. However, the establishment of secular government worldwide has emerged as America's new crusade in the post-September 11 world, or at least that's what Bush wants the world to believe during his second term.
It was Sistani, once again, who issued a religious decree exhorting the Shi'ites to vote as a religious obligation. There is absolutely no doubt that Sistani and other grand ayatollahs will demonstrate the same type of unequivocal and unambiguous resolve to create a government where Islam maintains a powerful presence. It will be a quintessentially Iraqi model, but an Islamic model nevertheless. In all likelihood the marjaiah
would insist that "no laws passed by the state contradict a basic understanding of sharia as laid out in the Koran". The issue of equal treatment of women has to be resolved through public debates, and by arriving at a new interpretation of Islam by Muslims of Iraq, not through the "enlightened" insistence of the US. The same goes for dividing family property and other issues affecting Muslims of that country.
It is another irony of history that the US is hoping to use the Kurdish or even Sunni Arab voting power to modify the Shi'ite notions of Islamic government in the coming weeks and months.
The US wanted Iraq to become a democracy. It has indeed started its march in that direction. A democratic Iraq is not likely to be anyone's puppet. It is likely to reflect the will of its own people - except in the case of Iraq, it will be a long time before the modalities of the "will" of its people will finally crystallize. Even with all the uncertainties revolving around Iraq, one can be certain about one thing: a democratic Iraq, as it is emerging at least for now, is not something even Bush had preferred.