Reuters says that Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is considering extending a freeze on the activities of his powerful Mehdi Army militia.
“Yes, there is a chance that the freeze on the Mehdi Army will be extended,” Salah al-Ubaidy told Reuters late on Wednesday.
Ubaidy did not say how long another extension might last or why the group was thinking of extending a freeze that U.S. commanders say has helped ease overall levels of violence in Iraq.
There is a plan to freeze the Mehdi Army’s activities again. (Sadr) has completed the re-organization of the force and has focused on using the members in helping society,” a senior Sadr official said under condition he not be named.
Somehow they don’t sound entirely sure. I suppose that’s a natural side-effect of being followers in a theocratic power structure. The latter Sadar “official” – how can a leader of a rogue terrorist group be an official anything? – also said this:
“We listen to his orders, even if he were to decide to abolish the Mehdi Army. He understands our interests more than ourselves.”
This leader’s last sentence is quite telling in that it shows how different freedom-oriented westerners’ attitudes are compared to those of devout Muslims. Our arrangements with power brokers are based on our convenience and our understanding on what is best for us on an individual basis. While many Muslims undoubtedly feel the same way in their hearts, their reverence for their leaders, whether merely superficial or genuinely deep, exceeds anything we would recognize as being reasonable. This is particularly in the case of Moqtada al-Sadr. He is a man who has done little to earn the respect of Islamic believers. But he is the son of the right man and that means something:
The son of a revered Shi’ite cleric slain under Saddam Hussein, Sadr has wide influence in the Shi’ite south and parts of Baghdad although he does not himself hold high clerical rank.
He has recently begun taking advanced Islamic studies in the religious learning centre of Najaf in a bid to climb the ranks of the Shi’ite religious hierarchy and increase his influence whilst also earning more respect from religious elders.
That’s one reason to follow a religion, I suppose.
It’s clear that he’s not the sort of man with which the U.S. can hope to build a long-term trust relationship. In my estimation, al-Sadr’s continued influence in Iraq and the region at large will be nothing but a source of instability.
(cross-posted at the PoliGazette)