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Sheikh Ali al-Najafi Discuses the Latest Iraqi Current Events | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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London Asharq Al-Awsat- Sheikh Ali al-Najafi, the son of Grand Ayatollah Bashir al Najafi one of the four Grand Ayatollahs of Iraq has affirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that “if things continue to be calculated from personal and material perspectives, then we should expect more difficult stages than we have now.” He pointed out that “there is no sectarian enmity between Iraq’s Sunnis and Shiites and anyone wagering on creating civil war is fighting a losing battle.”

In the first interview with a media organization where he discusses his father’s views on the current situation in Iraq, Sheikh Ali noted that his father said when the occupation entered Iraq that “Iraq has entered a dark and very long tunnel whose end we do not know. With the passage of time, Iraq went through difficult and critical times and some achievements were made at a time when many bad things happened. But in the religious leader’s view, it is difficult in the current period to bring the country to the shores of safety and make it the real image we want for Iraq if the country’s men do not take a real pause and all sectors have a real determination.” Ali al-Najafi added, “We are expecting greater difficulty than we have now if things continue to be calculated from the personal and material perspectives.”

Regarding the proposal of reconciliation between the Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq, Sheikh Al-Najafi said: “The Iraqis did not differentiate or leave give a gap between them throughout their history in the issue of Sunnis and Shiites. There are the familial ties and links between both communities. This is an alien issue that Saddam Hussein brought and then was perpetuated by international terrorism. The occupier has a hand in it. The reconciliation issue was interpreted from several viewpoints and that of the religious authority (Sheikh Al-Najafi) is that the reconciliation should be with those who hands were not tainted with the blood of the Iraqi people. The latter were persecuted and killed and therefore the reconciliation should be with those who held different viewpoints and had a different vision. We in Iraq know details of the situations. The teacher was not appointed and the child was not taught if they were not Baathist. We should differentiate between the Baathist who was forced to become a party member against his will and those who were promoted and rose to higher ranks at the expense of the Iraqis’ blood and violating their honor, according to their positions.”

The son of Grand Ayatollah Bashir al-Najafi ruled out the breakout of a sectarian war in Iraq and said: “There are many attempts by the enemies of the country and Islam for such a case. But, praise be to God, the firm stand of the religious authority and its instructions to the Iraqi street despite what is happening to the Shiite community first and then the Iraqi people’s sons, I believe that anyone thinking of and planning to ignite a sectarian war in Iraq is fighting a losing war. We hope that the country’s sages will adopt the religious authority’s stand so as to protect the country and its authority. We are working to foil these plans. The winner in such a war is the first loser.”

Sheikh Ali al-Najafi affirmed that there are contacts between the Sunni clerics and his father and said: “The religious authority and his office doors are open to all. He is fatherly to all Muslims. Moreover, there are no barriers or obstacles between the clerics for continuing the visits by the brother Sunni clerics. Meetings were held and contacts are continuing between the brother Sunni clerics and the religious authority.”

Regarding the idea of reviving the proposal of Abdul Majid al-Khoei when he visited Al-Najaf, where he was assassinated on 10 April 2003, to turn the city into a religious capital for all the Iraqi Sunni and Shiite Muslims, Al-Najafi said that the idea “originated from Al-Khoei’s belief that the city is qualified educationally and religiously and the site throughout its history for the Shiites’ religious leaders and the thoughts for Islam in general. We are working for this aspiration and in order for Al-Najaf to take its position after what it and its men suffered at the hands of the former regime. This remains a hope that we wish will come true.”

He described the situation in Al-Najaf “as much better than many other governorates and any Iraqi city. Al-Najaf and Iraq’s other cities need many services in the electricity, water, fuel, and reconstruction fields.” He added: “The atmospheres are generally quiet and we hope they remain so under the Iraqi forces’ protection. But regrettably, there is major financial and administrative corruption in the administration of the city. The religious authority is spiritual and one of guidance. We assert to the brothers and convey the instructions of the authority (his father Al-Najafi) in this. Administrative corruption existed under the former regime and remains to this day. Some employees’ concern now is to receive the money without offering any service.”

Regarding Ayatollah Al-Najafi’s view of the governorates law that parliament recently approved, his son said: “His viewpoint is to wait for the details of the law’s mechanism and then examine it in depth. Generally speaking, the religious authority said as long as this law protects Iraq’s unity and is against the partitioning of the country and its people, then it is all right.”

On the religious authority’s status and future in Al-Najaf, Sheikh Ali al-Najafi said: “Al-Najaf went through several different roles. There was once a single religious authority, the community’s indisputable leader, like Ayatollah Abu al-Qasim al-Khoei. There was no other prominent voice on the stage. Following his death, periods passed during which groups of clerics appeared and the matter rested with a single authority (Al-Sistani). It is difficult to foretell the authority’s future and as long as there are in the Shiite jurisprudence branches a proviso that authority rests with the most learned, then that proviso prevails.” He added: “Al-Najaf’s religious center is distinguished by the fact that the most learned is the one who becomes prominent. There are competitions all through the student’s studies. The unique one emerges at the start and the lessons in the religious school are open to all. Religious authority is not custodianship or inheritance but a big religious and educational responsibility. One who can issue the fatwa that is closest to the reality and decides the Shariaa rule in the correct way becomes the leader. Not every cleric can be an authority.”

In reply to a question about the religious authority’s boycott of the media, the son of the Najafi religious leader said: “The religious authority’s problem with the media is briefly that most of the world’s media is under the major countries’ control and this is a negative point. The media war has its own uniqueness and there is no media that is absolutely neutral. Therefore the authority fears being exploited or distorted.”

Regarding the proposal for the religious authority to have its own media tools, like a satellite channel and so on, he said: “This is now under consideration and many ideas have been raised about it. There are mechanisms for bringing the authority’s voice and when it wants its voice or any idea to be heard, it is capable of doing so.”

On the Shiite religious authority’s intervention in the elections, Sheikh Ali al-Najafi said: “My father directed the street during the elections for reasons of directing that street to what is good and urged the Sunni brothers to take part in the elections more than the Sunnis did.” He pointed out that the “idea behind forming the Unified Iraqi Coalition was to include all the Iraqi communities and races. We are not responsible for the mistakes of those who made mistakes in the coalition later on. The authority does not look for a position or material gain but seeks what is best for the Iraqis and the faithful as a whole.” He went on to say: “Terrorism in Iraq has taken several forms. There is the sectarian terrorism, which is the most prominent in the country when the killing is done on the basis of the identity. There is the political terrorism that does not think of a Sunni, Shiite, Christian, Arab, or Kurd and its main concern is to achieve material gains and they take Islam a cloak for them.”

He stressed that the “Shiite’s religious authority was and remains independent and the relationship between Iraq’s and Iran’s Shiites is through the community and not a political connection or contact. Politically, Iraq has it own position and cloak and Iran has it own political position and cloak. Najaf is unique as is its religious authority, prestige, and independence. As my father wrote, it is unique by its intellectual diversity and is the mother of all religious schools in the world.”