Ap Is Reporting That At Friday Prayers

*AP is reporting that at Friday Prayers in Nasiriya, a cleric giving the sermon to 2000 worshipers said, “We have to be ready in the long term to establish our own Islamic state.” The words were those of As`ad al-Nasiri, a prominent cleric who just returned from Syria. But like many Iraqi Shiites, he means by that a state governed by Islamic law rather than one ruled by clerics. He is said to have added, “We have to preserve this country by respecting the professionals and not interfere in their work.” But of course, if the professionals happen to be secularists who refuse to implement an Islamic state, that might provoke some interference from al-Nasiri and his like, now mightn’t it? The last I could tell, Nasiriya is dominated politically by the al-Da`wa Party, an old Shiite revolutionary party. The first thing he said should be taken very seriously.

*Abd al-`Aziz al-Hakim, second in command of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, has reached Baghdad after winding his way through Shiite cities like Kut and Amara, being lionized in each. He came from Iran last week, where he had been in exile. He spoke to a large congregation at a mosque in east Baghdad, saying that SCIRI would not participate in any government “imposed” on Iraq, and that Iraqis are perfectly able to govern themselves. He also called for Iraqi unity. He said his brother, Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, will come back to Iraq soon. SCIRI is likely to be a major player, but so far their leaders have refused to cooperate with the leadership meetings being called by Jay Garner, the American head of the office for reconstruction.

*Grand Ayatollah Shaykh Muhammad Husayn Fadlu’llah of Lebanon gave an interview with Asharq al-Awsat in which he said that although the American war on Iraq had saved its people from a graven idol (i.e. Saddam), it aimed at reducing the country to a mere military base. He said that the demonstrations at Karbala were an “uprising” that could turn into anti-colonial resistance against US rule. Fadlu’llah is followed by some Iraqi Shiites, having been born and educated in Najaf. Although he has broken with the Hizbullah party (and with Iran), on these issues his stance is probably not far from that of Hizbullah.

*On the other hand, Shaikh `Abd al-Hadi al-Muhammadawi gave a sermon to the largest congregation in the Shiite part of Baghdad, in the al-Mansura district, in which he called for Iraqi independence from any “occupation” but at the same time called for a united Iraq and an end to violence and terrorism. He said it was natural for everyone to cooperate with the Americans for now, since they were the occupying power and had removed the stain of Saddam’s tyranny from Iraq. But he said that the US now has a responsiblity to follow through on its promises and to leave as soon as security and stability are restored to the country. He called for a dialogue of civilizations. This phrase comes from Iranian President Muhammad Khatami and shows that Khatami’s reformist and moderate principles have some followers among the clerics in Iraq. This sermon is the first evidence I have seen of influence from the Iranian reformers rather than from the hardliners (who seem to have a special line into SCIRI). This could get interesting. In the meantime, give that man a medal!