Shiite Preachers Throughout Iraq

Shiite Preachers throughout Iraq support Sistani, Slam US Plans as “Colonialism.”

al-Hayat reported that Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani’s representative in Karbala, Shaikh Abdul Mahdi al-Karbala’i, warned that the coming days will witness demonstrations and strikes, and possibly confrontations with the occupation [Coalition] forces if they insist on “their colonialist plot and in designing the politics of this country in ways that serve their interests.” Al-Karbala’i called everyone in his Friday sermon before hundreds of worshippers “to support the religious leadership,” affirming that “the Shiite leadership in Najaf takes a great interest in the process of transferring sovereignty to the Iraqi people through general elections.”

He added that it would “never henceforth allow the rights of the Iraqi people and the oppressed religious community [the Shiites] to be stolen from them, and would never compromise on their rights.” He said that “The religious leadership is intent proceeding with this battle until the end. What is asked of you now is not to abandon [Grand Ayatollah Sistani] to himself, since leaving him in the lurch would expose us to the wrath of God and the curses of history.” He asked the worshippers to “forget your disputes and to unite for the sake of the greater cause,” pointing out that “apathy and negligence will lead to more long years of repression.” He warned of enemies of the Shiites who were meeting behind closed doors to plot the political future of the Iraqi people.

In Basra, Hujjat al-Islam Ali Abd al-Hakim al-Safi [al-Musawi], the representative of Sistani in that city, called for the holding of general elections in Iraq on the basis of ration card rolls drawn up by the former regime. Support for the idea of free and open elections also came from Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Hussain Fadlallah of Lebanon.

Charles Clover in Najaf for the Financial Times reports that Shiite clergymen throughout Iraq, including the shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala and the slums of East Baghdad (Sadr City) mounted their pulpits on Friday and asked their congregants to support Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani’s call for general elections in May. It is interesting that many of these clergymen in East Baghdad are probably followers of Muqtada al-Sadr, and are supporting Sistani’s position. The issue of open, one person one vote elections, serves to unite Shiites across the board, even bitter rivals like the Sadrists and the mainstream followers of Sistani. That seems to me bad news for the Coalition Provisional Authority and its plans to have the new government elected by hand-picked provincial councils.

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