July 1, 2008 No.

Senior Shi'ite Iraqi Ayatollah Residing in Iran: "Iranian Clerics Are Running Riot in Iraq"

In a recent interview with the Al-Arabiya website, Iraqi Ayatollah Fadhel Al-Maliki, a prominent Iraqi Shi'ite cleric who resides in the Iranian city of Qom, harshly criticized the Iranian clerics residing in Najaf, Iraq, for interfering in Iraqi politics. At the same time, he also condemned the Iraqi government for its military activities against the Mahdi Army in Basra, which he called "a violation of rights and an open war [waged] by the government against the Iraqi people." He added that the fighting in southern Iraq was "an intifada against occupation and corruption." Lastly, Al-Maliki criticized attempts by the Islamists in Basra to force women to wear the veil.

The Al-Arabiya website emphasized the importance of Al-Maliki's statements against the Iranian clerics in Iraq, pointing out that he is a Shi'ite ayatollah who heads a religious seminary in Qom.

The following are excerpts from the interview:[1]

"Living here in Iran, I see that [the Iranians] do not permit any [non-Iranian] cleric, no matter how wise, to interfere in their politics and internal affairs. We in Iraq [must] likewise tell [the Iranian clerics residing in our country]: 'Refrain from interfering in our internal affairs, in order to avoid [stirring up] sensitive [issues]... and because an Iraqi cleric knows more about the affairs of his country [than you].' I [hereby] rule that a non-Iraqi cleric may not interfere in the political situation in Iraq, whether he resides in Qom or in Najaf. Living in Najaf does not make him an Iraqi...

"These Iranian clerics [living in Iraq] are running riot in our country, for they are part of a scheme based on a regional and international agenda, and are meant to provide a religious guise for a misguided political process... Today, Iraq is [virtually] ruled by the [Shi'ite clerics]... If these clerics, who now rule Iraq, are not actual religious clerics, they must remove their religious vestments... for a cleric must not be a member of a [political] party or of the government...

"A sectarian religious government will never succeed [in ruling] Iraq, and neither will a secular government. [The only kind of government that has a chance is] a civilian government based on the Iraqi virtues of nobility and moderation... The 'rule of the jurisprudent' [a basic principle of the Islamic regime in Iran] is not suited to Iraq...

"There are certain Iraqi [political] parties that emerged, were indoctrinated, and were armed in Iran. [These] do not represent the Iraqi people, which is being misled with religious slogans."

About women in Basra who have been murdered for going unveiled, Al-Maliki said: "We denounce anyone who perpetrates crimes against civilians, no matter what his religion. Islam does not permit attacks on women for not wearing a veil, and they must not be forced to do so."

Asked about his residing in Iran, Al-Maliki replied that he had been exiled from Iraq, and that he was, in fact, the only Iraqi Shi'ite cleric who had been exiled. He added that if he returned he would promptly be killed – for he opposed the current Iraqi regime just as he had opposed the previous regime of Saddam Hussein. He also stated that he felt like a stranger in Qom, and that he woud leave Iran if any Arab country agreed to accept him.

[1], April 1, 2008.