Cheat-Seeking Missles

Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Voice Of Reason In Iraq's Parliament

Give a listen to this video from MEMRI; it's about 12 minutes in length, but it's worth it if you want to hear an Iraqi Shi'ite political leader who is strongly religious defend flexibility and freedom in government.

The clip is of Iraqi MP Iyad Jamal al-Din, a Shi'ite who has survived four assassination attempts, being interviewed by Al-Arabiya TV, a Saudi/Dubai station. In other words, an elected Shi'ite interviewed on Sunni TV.

Al-Din is a secularist who has caught the attention of others as diverse as Spike and Dr. Sanity for his reformist positions.

In the clip, al-Din supports the concept of Sharia Law, but also says that following leaders who demand the sort of allegiance Muslims give only to Muhammed is wrong. Al-Din supports making bars legal, for example, because while he does not drink out of respect for his religion's laws, he does not see a non-Sharia government as a source of authority capable of demanding certain behaviors from Muslims.

He also says that he respects a woman who does not cover her head out of religious principle more than a woman who covers her head because she doesn't want to make waves.

As for the current government in Iraq, al-Din sees it as a blessing, but a mixed one:
President Bush and America should be thanked for saving us from that idol [Saddam Hussein] that wanted to be worshiped like Allah. If you were to go to Iraq in the days of Saddam Hussein, it was Saddam who (decided) everything from A to Z. Saddam gave life and took life and decided if people would be rich or poor.

Interviewer: Don't the new politicians have many, if not all, of Saddam's qualities?

Undoubtedly. We've gotten rid of Saddam, but not all the mini-Saddams. Even before the war, I said that I was worried that the democracy that we have longed for would turn into a Latin American-style democracy, a banana republic, relying on an economic mafia and a political mafia.
This is a complex man whose beliefs may well be mainstream demographically, but are hardly mainstream politically in conservative Muslim society. They are the sorts of beliefs that got Benazir Bhutto killed, so there's little surprise that al-Din been the targets of assassins. (He implies that the attacks on him were carried out by more dogmatic Shi'ites, not al-Qaeda because "al-Qaeda does not fail.")

Listening to a man like this gives one appreciation or the complexity of the task of establishing democracies in Islamic nations, but also clearly shows that there are some leaders who understand the benefits and see the process as possible, even under Islam.

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