Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Islam meets America

"Many people who follow the course of religious affairs here believe that the return of Shiite clerics to Iraq, and the revival of Iraq's historically holy city of Najaf, may pose a serious threat to the rule of the hard-line ayatollahs in Iran.

Najaf is expected to become the center of Shiite faith once again when influential clerics return and begin teaching at its seminaries. Some high-ranking Iranian clerics who believe in freer religious studies, such as Ayatollah Javad Tabrizi, have also said that they would go to Najaf when stability returns."


In a mirror image of American perceptions towards Muslim clerics, the Shiite ministers have come to regard the United States and it's influence, as a mortal threat to the Ayatollahs. The fear derives in part from the opportunity of Iraqi Shiites to do what religions do best: break loose from central control, which in this case means Iran. It doesn't mean that the Iraqi Shiites will suddenly become pro-American, whatever that means in an age of Michael Moore and Susan Sarandon. But it does mean that they may become un-Iranian. The American challenge is to persuade both the Iraqi Shiites and the Ayatollahs that competition does not necessarily imply liquidation.