Monday, November 20, 2006

Iraq and Bahrain

One of the silver linings to the Iraq debacle has been the new confidence and sense of empowerment of Arab Shi'ites. Gulf News explains the relevance of Najafi clerics for the Bahraini elections:
"While Shaikh Adel Al Mouawda in 2002 referred to Sunni religious authorities in Saudi Arabia to obtain the edict that allowed him and other Sunnis to vote and run in the elections, Shaikh Eisa Qasem found in Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani in Iraq the answer he was seeking. 'Boycotting the elections would be a grave mistake,' said the fatwa that the Shiite establishment quickly spread in Bahrain to convince eligible voters who were reluctant to go to the voting stations on November 25.

"In the heat of the pro-elections drive, Shaikh Eisa Qasem admitted that his decision to run in the 1973 elections alongside other religious personalities in Bahrain was based on an edict from Najaf-based authorities Sayyed Mohammad Baqer Al Sadr and Shaikh Mohammad Ameen Zain Al Abidine.

"The candid admission coupled with the participation calls by Al Sistani this year and Sunni religious leaders in 2002 highlight the increasing significance that religious statements from foreign-based scholars are playing in Bahrain's polls."

I know virtually nothing about the Bahraini religious establishment, so my sense that had Sistani not been around the clerics would simply have turned to Iran or Lebanon for models probably doesn't count for much. With luck I'll learn more when I go there in a couple of months.


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