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Sadr: From the Street and Back to the Street! - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A fellow media figure asked me about the significance of Moqtada Sadr’s supporters carrying out an unofficial referendum to determine who they will support to be the next prime minister in Iraq. The first thing that came to mind was the Quranic verse, “from it we created you and into it we shall send you back,” [Surat Taha; Verse 55]. Moqtada Sadr came from “the street” and here he is going back to it; he is not a veteran leader, he is not even qualified [to lead] and the proof is that he is now in Iran on the pretext of completing his [religious] education!

Of course, it doesn’t matter if the results of the referendum end up in favor of Iyad Allawi or Nuri al Maliki or anyone else, especially as there were no regulations or observers for the referendum. The youth, men and women cast their vote and some of them voted more than once; however, what’s more important is the significance of the referendum and its implications. The referendum that the Sadrists carried out contributes to what I call discrediting the concept of leadership, especially as the Sadrist trend won at least around 39 seats in the new parliament in the recent elections, which will make it an influential party on alliances forming the Iraqi government. Therefore, what’s the reason for returning to the “street”?

Some might say that the Sadrist trend resorted to the referendum in order to use it as an excuse not to support Nuri al Maliki. Nevertheless, this pretext is unacceptable and it does not reflect a sense of leadership. When the voters have given the Sadrist trend 39 seats in parliament then the leadership of the Sadrist trend must lead and it must take its decisions without belittling the concept of leadership. Even in football we have never seen a referee stopping the match to ask the spectators whether or not what they saw was a penalty!

Therefore, never mind the fact that the referendum the Sadrists carried out had no legitimacy; it also flattens the concept of democracy, as the destiny of the leadership, any leadership, is to lead. We find that in the strongest democracies, and even in non-democratic states, when the people are proud of their leaderships they call them the “founding fathers” and this title is not given to any other leaders whether they are current or former rulers because the founders were the ones who took the most important and difficult decisions that did not appeal to their supporters straight away but over time it became clear that the decisions they made were the right ones. As a result, they, along with their decisions, were considered historical.

The problem that some people are not paying attention to today in our region is that we are witnessing a destructive organized effort to break down our countries from within, just as we are seeing people belittling the concept of leadership; people who raise their voice are being labeled leaders such as Hamas and Khaled Mishal; or those who hide in the basement or behind weapons such as Hezbollah and Hassan Nasrallah, or those who turn to another country [for help] such as Moqtada Sadr; not those who build on, invest in and protect the rights of their people.

Therefore, we must not let the details of the alliances that are being formed in Iraq today to form government take our attention away from the bigger picture of a dangerous shortcoming that does not only harm Iraq but the whole of our region, and we must not deal with it as if it is something acceptable or natural, and that is belittling the concept of leadership and breaking down the Arab state bit by bit and from within. We must remember that the role of a leader is to lead, not to be led.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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