September 1, 2006 Special Dispatch No. 1273

Iraqi MP Iyad Jamal Al-Din Advocates Secularism in Iraq and Declares: The State Should Be an Institution That Provides Services to Its Citizens

September 1, 2006
Iraq | Special Dispatch No. 1273

Sayyid Ayad Jamal al-Din [1] is a Shi’ite cleric with deep commitment to secularism and democracy. He was elected as a member of Iraqi parliament in December 2005 on the secular list headed by previous prime minister Ayad Allawi.

Sayyid Ayad launched the MEMRI Reformist Lecture Series on April 6, 2006, and now serves on the Iraqi National Reconciliation Committee.

The following are excerpts from an interview with Iraqi MP Iyad Jamal Al-Din, which aired on Abu Dhabi TV on August 19, 2006.


"Iraq Can Be Ruled Only by Secularism"; We Must "Make the State Neutral... An Institution That Provides Services to All the Citizens"

Iyad Jamal Al-Din: "In Mecca, the Prophet would herald and warn. In other words, he was a teacher. He did not have an army, a police force, or a state. He would guide people. But in the period of Al-Madina, in addition to being a teacher who heralds and warns, he came to rule a state, with an army, with a police force that enforced the command to do good, and with money. In Mecca there were no hypocrites, and people were either Muslims or polytheists. But in Al-Madina a new disease appeared - people there were divided into Muslims, polytheists, and hypocrites. A hypocrite is a Muslim who conceals his heresy. He does not believe in the prophecy of Muhammad. The phenomenon of hypocrisy was described in a full sura and in many verses in the Koran. It is a reaction to the ideological state - not to religion. When the Prophet was in Mecca, there was no hypocritical reaction against him. But once the Prophet came to run a state, automatically a group [of hypocrites] emerged, and after the Prophet was gone, they claimed a monopoly over the rule, and took control of things. Any ideological state, even one that is led by the Prophet Muhammad, has its advantages and disadvantages. Even though the ideological state was led by the Prophet, there emerged a large group of hypocrites, who were 'obstinate in hypocrisy,' and who converted to Islam out of greed for the Prophet's money, or out of fear of his armies. They gnawed away at the Islamic nation, and have tarnished the religion to this very day."


"I am one of the people who have advocated secularism ever since the day Saddam Hussein was toppled, because Iraq can be ruled only by secularism. Otherwise, the Shi'ites would be entitled to impose their ideology, and to establish a Shi'ite state throughout Iraq. This would not please our Sunni brothers. Similarly, the Sunnis would be entitled to transform the state into an ideological Sunni state, which would anger the Shi'ites. Therefore, we have no choice but to make the state neutral, by making it an institution without color, taste, or smell - an institution that provides services to all the citizens."


"The state is like a soccer team. You cannot say that the 'Al-Ahali' or 'Zamalak' [Egyptian] soccer teams are Sunni, Shi'ite, Muslim, or non-Muslim. They are just soccer teams. You cannot say that a certain company is Muslim. A company cannot be labeled... A state does not have a religion. A state does not pray, fast, or make a pilgrimage. It is the individuals who prays, fasts, and makes a pilgrimage. A state does not have a religion."


"If You are Not Free, No Force in the World Can Liberate You"

"Some think that the Prophet Muhammad came for the sake of the nation, that we should make sacrifices for the sake of the nation, and that Hussein, son of Ali, had to be killed for the sake of the nation. Absolutely not! 'Nation' is a mental concept. There is no such thing as a 'nation' outside the mind. You and I are real. This camera, this chair... 'Nation' is a mental, subjective concept. This mental concept of 'nation' emerged in order to create an Islamic collective - Muslim people who gather in order to care for the individual. The goal of the prophets was to create an individual - not a nation. The nation was a coincidental creation whose purpose was to protect the individual - not vice versa. The nation is for the sake of the individual, and not the other way around."


"You cannot plant democracy in a country that rejects it. Freedom does not come through learning how to read and write. Freedom, like love, is an inner feeling. If you are not free, no force in the world can liberate you. Freedom is a will within the individual, and, unfortunately, this wonderful and beautiful individual in our countries has been distorted by the fraudulent Islamic culture."

[1] For more on Sayyid Ayad Jamal al-Din please see:

MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 1138, "Iraqi Reformist MP Sayyed Ayad Jamal Al-Din Discusses the Situation in Iraq at MEMRI's Reform Lecture Series in Washington, D.C.," April 12, 2006, Iraqi Reformist MP Sayyed Ayad Jamal Al-Din Discusses the Situation in Iraq at MEMRI's Reform Lecture Series in Washington, D.C. ;

MEMRI TV Clip No. 979, "Iraqi Politician Iyad Jamal Al-Din: The Arabs Use Israel as a Pretext for Their Backwardness, But Don't Really Want Democracy," November 30, 2005, ;

MEMRI TV Clip 793, "Iraqi Politician Iyad Jamal Al-Din: The Arabs Want Tyrannical Regimes, in Line with Their Backward Culture," July 31, 2005, ;

MEMRI TV Clip No. 473, "Iraqi Shiite Leader 'Ayad Jamal Al-Din: Iran Pursues Own Interests, Not Shiite Interests; Iraqis Do Not Put Pictures of Khamenei in their Homes," January 3, 2005, .

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