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Reader comment on item: Islamic Law Rules In Iraq

Submitted by Michael Elzufon (Israel), Mar 3, 2004 at 08:28

Mr. Pipes, am I mistaken or is this your first mention of Ayatollah Sistani in an article? It seems puzzling that you would have taken so long to say anything about a figure who seems likely to play a major role in developments in Iraq. He seems especially intriguing for seeming to oppose theocratic rule while in no sense being a liberal. To this non-specialist, he seems to resemble far less Khomeini than the rabbinic leaders in Israel. That is to say, a world-view very much opposed to the liberal democratic philosophy that rules the West, yet by no means hostile to democracy as a means of government for the forseeable future, with a definite vision of the direction that they would like to see society and polity take while recognizing that much of it is unlikely to be adopted and, perhaps most important, showing no inclination to actually rule. To be sure, Sistani might be able to have more influence on Iraq than, say, Rav Schach had on Israel, but that might be a difference of degree rather than of kind. It also might mean a different kind of democracy there than we are used to, but still one that we can all live with.

You seem to see militant Islam as the nearly obvious winner in the coming struggle in Iraq, at least in part based on the decision to make the Sharia "a source" for law in Iraq. While the Islamists will obviously attempt to make it the source, it seems clear that there are major elements that will be trying to prevent that, including some who will try to marginalize it as much as possible. A look at Israel will remind you that the religious do not always win these battles. That the balance of forces and the nature of the conflict will be very different in Iraq than in Israel is clear; might there not be major elements opposing the Islamists? Have they no chance to win?
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