Radical Shiite Clerics In East Baghdad

*Radical Shiite clerics in East Baghdad tried to get up a big demonstration against the American occupation on Saturday (they began organizing it after Friday prayers on Friday). But they were only able to get about 2000 demonstrators out in front of the US HQ in downtown Baghdad. They tried to organize a similar protest a couple of weeks ago, and only produced 10,000 demonstrators. But this particular demonstration was not called for by the more important Shiite leaders in Iraq–it seems to have been a local thing, out of one or two of the East Baghdad mosques. They were demanding that the Shiite clerics have the power of judicial review over any decisions or laws decided on by Iraq’s civil government. This is not the same as the sytem in Iran, exactly, though it parallels a clause in the 1907 Iranian constitution. If this is the best they can do in getting out a crowd, the American administration may decide they can safely ignore the clericalist Shiites in Iraq. A recent poll found that only about a quarter of Iraqis want a religious state.

*The head of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Mamoun al-Hudaybi, has reaffirmed his organization’s commitment to jihad or holy war, as the only way to attain basic goals. He seemed to be referring to the question of whether Hamas (the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood) should stop its attacks on Israelis. He referred to the evil attacks by Islam’s enemies (America in Iraq, Israel in the Occupied Territories?) The leaders of the more radical splinter group of the Muslim Brotherhood, the al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya, has renounced violence from prison. Al-Hudaybi may be attempting to position his organization as at the forefront of direct action against non-Muslim powers.

*Dozens of students involved in the recent democracy demonstrations in Iran have been arrested, according to Reuters and the LA Times. The regime appears to be going after those they consider ringleaders. Since the student movement is relatively isolated, there is no countervailing force in Iran to protect them in any practical manner. It is difficult to see how the Bush administration rhetoric in support of the students does those in jail much good.

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