The Islamic Paradox: Shiite Clerics, Sunni Fundamentalists, by Reuel Mark Gerecht

By Reuel Mark Gerecht

This monograph concludes that, satirically, those that have hated the us the main now carry the keys to spreading democracy within the Muslim heart East.

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Additional resources for The Islamic Paradox: Shiite Clerics, Sunni Fundamentalists, and the Coming of Arab Democracy

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If Sistani, Grand Ayatollah al-Hakim, and the traditional clergy can keep the hard-core radicals like the Sadriyyin in check, it will become increasingly difficult for other Shiite forces in the future, most worrisome Shiite generals commanding a majority Shiite army, to betray a democratic system backed by the most esteemed voices in the community. Contrary to what is commonly believed, secular Shiites, not religiously oriented ones, are probably the most serious long-term threat to the development of a viable democratic system in Iraq.

And the softer side of Iranian Shiism in the nineteenth century produced Bahaism, which is viewed by its followers and Muslims as a new religion and not a heretical sect. All the great revolutionary clerics of the twentieth century—Ruhollah Khomeini, the Iraqi Muhammad Baqir as-Sadr, and Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah of Lebanon—tried to convert Shiism into a faith of victors, to make Shiites act like Sunnis. The martyrdom of Ali’s son Hussein, who marched with only a few followers against the Umayyads and toward a certain death, became for these men and their followers a symbol of revolutionary protest, not a Christ-like figure teaching in defeat the virtues of sacrifice and the ugliness of political power.

And the commentary on Khomeini that I often heard proved that the Iraqi clerical community had not been lost in a time-lag under Saddam Hussein. Even before the murder of Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir as-Sadr in April 1980, the Baathist regime had worked to isolate and psychologically undermine the Shiite religious establishment. After Sadr’s death and the beginning of the 1980–88 war with Iran, an army of spies descended on the ‘Atabat, the shrine cities that are the “doorways” to heaven for Shiites.

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