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This Is Annoying

The link on CNN’s front page says: Radical Iraqi cleric suspends his militia.

The title of the article is: Iraqi cleric suspends militia.

The lead paragraph is: “Anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has ordered a suspension of his Mehdi Army militia for up to six months for restructuring, a senior aide said Wednesday.”

Later in the article they write: “Al-Sadr emerged as a popular grass-roots Shiite leader after the United States toppled Saddam Hussein, developing clout that has altered the political landscape in Iraq’s Shiite heartland.”

While he comes from a long line of clerics including several Grand Ayatollahs, and he is a descendant of the Prophet as indicated by his black turban, Muqtada al-Sadr, is not, nor has he ever claimed to be a cleric¹. He does not, nor has he ever claimed to be able to, issue fatwas. He directs people to their own spiritual leaders when questions of religion arise because he has never finished his studies. He was distracted by Saddam Hussein executing members of his family.

The al Sadr movement was started a long time ago by his family, and he leads it by default as the oldest surviving son. He doesn’t want to see any foreign country in or controlling Iraq, be it the US or Iran, and is one of the few people with any status who actually wants to see Iraq survive as a nation.

Sad to say, but he is probably the least worst leader to turn Iraq over to on our way out, and the US keeps attacking him.

1. Update – al Sadr completed the first level of training at the Najaf hawza. In US terms he has a bachelor of divinity from the most important religious university in Shi’ia Islam. He needs the more advanced training and research to obtain his doctorate in divinity [mujtahid] to really have influence as a cleric. Many people doubt he will ever have the skills to be an professor [ayatollah] like his father and father-in-law.

2 comments

1 fallenmonk { 08.30.07 at 8:02 am }

Thanks for pointing this out Bryan. I have been thinking the “cleric” label was valid all this time. I should know better than to believe even the first word of what I hear from these folks without independent confirmation.

2 Bryan { 08.30.07 at 9:47 am }

Religion is important to these people. The titles are important. Failing to note the relative standing of major players distorts the intelligence.

Al Sadr’s lack of clerical credentials is one of the reasons he doesn’t want to get too involved with Iran, where all of the real power resides with the clerics. It is also the reason that Ahmadinejad has less power than his predecessors as Iranian president.

Anyone may speak at a mosque, but that doesn’t make them a cleric.

Former Senator John Danforth is an ordained Episcopal priest and Bill Moyers is an ordained Baptist minister, but the media doesn’t constantly refer to them as “clerics”.