New York Times
Friedman is planning to nominate the religious leader of Iraqi Shiites,
Ayatollah Sistani, to Nobel Peace Prize. Many Iraqis and Americans,
wonder if Sistani deserves this Prize while refraining from even
word against the brutality of Saddam’s regime, the violence of wars,
atrocities of the occupation. Is codling the power on ground, no matter
repressive, is a legitimate criterion for winning a peace prize or
justice and speaking against wrongs through non-violence? Many
ask if this is why American soldiers fought and died for in Iraq?
American mothers send their children to the Iraq
war in order to empower a clergy, such as Sistani, and his vision for
another Islamic republic like Iran,
ruled by another ayatollah?
In the era of
the image of an ayatollah in charge of a vital state to US strategic interest, such as Iraq,
sensitive. Yet, many Iraqi Shiites, some Americans, and the Bush
consider Sistani as one of the most moderate leaders in Iraq.
shortly after the US
occupation of Iraq
in 2003, issuing religious decrees calling on Shiite clergy not to get
in politics. At the same time, he began calling for the creation of a
constitutional convention by a direct vote and criticizing the US-
Iraqi government of Ayad Allawie as undemocratic.
Sistani’s role became
in 2004 as a response to Muqtada al-Sadr,
a 42 years Shiite clergy and
the head of an independent militia known as the Mahdi army.
Sistani's role as a political leader was supported among the Shiite
property-owners, while Muqtada’s support was among the urban poor
The contrast between
became clearer in early August
for heart treatment. A few weeks later, he returned to Iraq to broker
agreement that ended the standoff in Najaf
at the holy Imam
shrine between U.S. marines and Muqtada al-Sadr's
<>Ever since, his edicts
many Iraqi Shiites with the religious backing to participate in the
including the January 2005 elections and the efforts to form a
government. While some clergies argued that democracy was
"non-Islamic" because it based power on people instead of claiming it
as derived from God, Sistani's message was that the Shiites had a
obligation to vote. He also urged them not to respond in kind to
Sunni extremists, which have become common in the Sunni-dominated
like the area known as the "triangle of death." >
justification for his
call for the Shiites to participate in the elections is based on a
learned from the Shiites boycotting of the 1922 elections in the young
The Shiites boycotted the elections of 1922, and because of that they
out of the political arena for nearly eight decades, suffering
ever since. This is precisely why he insisted that every Iraqi Shiite
vote. He sees it as his duty never to let the Shiites commit the same
as they did in 1922.
In forming the new
government, Sistani sees himself as a guardian, not as puppet master.
His goal is
to safeguard the rights of the Shiites and to establish an
regime ruled by politicians but supervised by the clergy in religious
He also wants the Shiites to remain devoted to Islam and united against
such as the Sunnis, the Americans, and the Kurds.
<>Despite his great
Iraqi politics, Sistani is not an Iraqi. He was born in Mashhad, Iran,
in 1929 to a family of religious scholars. His family comes from the
area of Iran
known as Sistan, which
accounts for the title
"al-Sistani" in his name. >
<>After spending a few
childhood studying religious teachings in Qom in central
Iran, he moved to Iraq
in order to study in Najaf
under Ayatollah Khoei. There, he settled down, raising a family and
integral member of that city's community. In 1962, he was appointed by
(a religious reference).
<>Sistani followed Khoei's
separating the clergy from politics, and subsequently of keeping out of
political involvement. This helped him avoid persecution by the former
regime of Saddam Hussein, except for a short period of detention in
the Shiite uprisings that followed the Gulf War.
<>After Khoei’s death in 1992, Sistani
was named as
his successor. His position, however, was challenged by other clerics,
Ayatollah Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr
(the uncle of the young
Muqtada al-Sadr). But, once Saddam executed Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr,
Sistani secured his
leadership position among the Iraqi Shiites.
<>In theory, Sistani
Islamic Republic of Iran. On occasions, however, he expressed his
disenchantment with its theocracy. He believes that politicians, not
should run government. Iran,
on the other hand, gives full political control to the clergies by
system called vilayet-e-faqih (guardianship of the
whereby the clergies rule all aspects of political affairs.
Despite his popularity, Sistani continues to face challenges to his
among Iraqi Shiites. For example, many Shiites do not want to cooperate
the Americans. Also, the method of non-violence advocated by Sistani
instead aroused anger among young radical and militant Shiites. Lastly,
are interpreting his involvement in political affairs as a road map
recreating another Islamic republic in the region.
a cause for concern, Sistani describes his actions as just. He fears
of what he describes as Iraq's
Islamic identity, and trusts that Iraqis will not dismantle it if given
through elections, even if such elections were held under a foreign
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