March 25, 2005

Gerecht in Najaf

In his latest piece for American Enterprise magazine, Reuel Marc Gerecht writes of his visit to Najaf and his meeting with the Shiite clerics of Iraq. Gerecht doesn't share the concerns of others that Iraq will devolve into a Khomeini-like theocracy. Sistani has learned from the ways that Khomeini delegitimized clerical rule in Iran, and Gerecht insists he is not to be feared:

Western observers who see in Ayatollah Sistani's growing influence the beginnings of an Iraqi theocratic state are quite simply wrong. Sistani has done what Iran's pro-democracy dissident clerics have dreamed of doing: He has taken the critical moral imperative in Islamic history--"commanding right and forbidding wrong"--and detached it from the state. While by no means liberals, Sistani and the traditional clergy allied with him are inverting this doctrine into a defense of political liberty. They are laying the pillars of a new, clerically protected democratic order.

When I asked Izz ad-Din whether he, his father Grand Ayatollah al-Hakim, Sistani, and the clerical community behind them consider democracy to be maruf ("that which is good"), he answered, "Completely. Muslims are entitled to live in a democratic society. Muslims, be they good ones or bad, have the right to vote."

Posted by dan at March 25, 2005 2:37 PM