Senior Member of College of Ayatollahs Slams US
The al-Hawzah al-`Ilmiyyah is the seminary center of leading Shiite clerics in Najaf, which exercises enormous moral authority over Iraqis of that branch of Islam. It is presently dominated by four senior clerics: Grand Ayatollahs Ali Sistani, Muhammad Said al-Hakim, Muhammad Fayyad, and Hussein Bashir al-Najafi. Sistani is Iranian, al-Hakim an Iraqi, Fayyad an Afghan, and Bashir al-Najafi a Pakistani. Baathist agents were arrested in Bashir’s home in early September, during an assassination attempt.
Bashir said Thursday to a group of Muslim prayer leaders in training, “Iraqis should be taught never to believe the promises and slogans of the US-led coalition forces. Most injustices inflicted on Muslims everywhere can be traced to the politics of arrogance pursued by the United States and surrogate regimes.”
He bitterly blamed the US for “ordering” the killing of Shiites in the spring of 1991, when they had risen up against Saddam Hussein. The US allowed Saddam to use his helicopter gunships to crush the rebellion, apparently acquiescing to Saudi pressure. Riyadh was afraid that a Shiite-dominated Iraq would form an axis with the ayatollahs in Tehran. Bashir said that the mass graves now being unearthed had been created “on US orders.” “History bears witness to their lies … God ordered us not to believe their promises.”
He called the United states “an occupier and aggressor against Iraq and the Hawza.”
This statement is an extremely harsh condemnation of the Americans by a cleric who has for the most part followed the quietist path charted by his senior colleague, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. It may be that Bashir is attempting to distance himself from the US so as to forestall another assassination attempt. Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, who was cooperating with the US and counseling patience, was assassinated, probably by Baathists, on August 29.
It may also be that Bashir is angry that US ally Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan has done little to stop the campaign of assassination against Shiites in that country by the radical Sunni group Sipah-i Sahaba (which is linked to the Taliban and al-Qaeda). The leader of the Sipah-i Sahaba, Maulana Azam Tariq, who occupied a seat in the Pakistani parliament when he should have been in jail, was assassinated Monday in Islamabad, provoking extreme tension and even riots between Sunnis and Shiites in Pakistan. Tariq’s supporters have filed complaints against major Shiite leaders, charging that they plotted the assassination.
If Bashir suspects that American-backed Musharraf may move against major Shiite clerics like Allama Sajid Naqvi, that would help explain his sudden anger at the US.