Saturday, February 07, 2004

In a simple small room with blue mattresses laid on the floor to sit on, Ayatollah Sistani, one of his sons and an assistant met a group of Sunni university professors, tribe leaders and dignitaries. During the 3 hour meeting not one single verse from the Quran was recited, he expressed his fear that federalism might lead to the fragmentation of Iraq and said that if the elections had to be delayed for legitimate reasons he will endorse the delay. My father came back from this meeting quite awed.

In preparation for the transition of power to Iraqi hands there have been numerous conferences and discussion groups, starting at neighborhood levels and going up to more specialized discussions. This has been going on for quite a while and I know that he (my father) was invited to a couple of them to talk, I read one of the papers he wrote on forms of representation, he’s a caucus type of guy. Which kind of makes sense in the current situation, the country is not really ready for a direct one vote per citizen type of thing. Security issues and fraud and the lack of experienced people to monitor the elections come into play.

Anyway, after a couple of those meetings a group of Sunni participants were invited to go and talk to al-Sistani. My father didn’t tell me the [what and how] because he knows I’ll blog it, (my family used to tell me things before they knew about this bad habit I have). But he came back quite impressed saying things like “you wouldn’t find a more secular Imam” which is of course an oxymoron, but it could have been the fact that it was late and he had nothing to eat the whole day. My mom sat with her hands crossed giving him the [ha! So what did you think you’ll meet? A raving lunatic?] look – just I case you are new to this, my father is a non-praying Sunni, my mother is a praying Shia (a Sistani shia) and I think the Quran is a very boring novel.

Apparently there is another meeting planned but no one is telling me when. What impressed my father was the fact that Sistani is much more moderate than the media portrays him. He is very flexible about the way these elections should look like, and sees no problem in them going along in stages. He is also ready to endorse a postponement of these elections if there is no agreement on how they should take place. What he does mind is any form of intermediate stage, if it didn’t work out at the planned time we should keep the status quo until we find a way. He said something along the lines that increasing the Governing Council from 25 to 250 will change nothing, and if the Americans move what they have in their left hand to their right hand it is still in their possession. Basically, either do it right or don’t, which sounds reasonable.

Another interesting thing he said is that Allah gave people the capacity to govern themselves and no one has the right to take that privilege from them, he doesn’t see Iraq as a theocracy like Iran.
All in all a bit confusing. So is he hard-line Shia or not? And why, after staying out of the political game for so long, has he become so central?

More importantly; how can I get that [I’m a blogger] stain out of my clothes? My cousins stop talking when I come into the room unless I swear I won’t put it online.