Friday, July 18, 2008

Memoirs of Ahmed al-Katib -3-

TRADITION AND CHANGE
in fact, the religious tide felt defeated in the face of the Communist, Nationalist, Pan-Arab and "Atheist" currents that engulfed Iraq in the 50s and 60s, especially attracting young and educated youth, therefore, leaders of the newborn Islamic movement worked for the distant future, laying foundations for upcoming decades, active members came into conflict regarding an important topic, the legality of the Marja'iyya and the extent of its power and efficiency in leading the Shi'i street. As many clerics held Iranian nationalities, thus avowing political work, especially since the deportation and exile of a number of leading clerics in the aftermath of the failure of the 1920 revolution and the Marja'iyya self-imposed isolation. the youthful Islamic movement, led by the Dawa Party, attempted to appraoch the problem of the clerics' disavowal of politics, they attempted to cut corners around the Marji'yya, more precisely, Dawa felt pressured to exhibit its leadership and political thoery as a vanguard of Islamic activity, however, the clergy of Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim in Najaf and Sayyid Mohammed al-Shirazi in Kerbala stood in opposition, al-Hakim issued a fatwa banning all clandestine activity, while al-Shirazi mounted a cultural campaign against the party's principle of Islamic labor, classifiying it as an "imported Western theory" that opposes the rightful leadership (Marji'yya) which is an extension of the Occulted Imam.
The major accusation we made against the Dawa Party was that they are "Khalisites," in reference to Sheikh Mahdi al-Khalisi, son of a 1920 Revolution Leader Sheikh Mohammed al-Khalisi, who was exiled to Iran along with his father, Iraqi authorities only allowed him to return after the end of World War II, he pressed for Pan-Islamic Unity and was critical of many Shi'i practices, especially their abandonement of Friday Prayers, he was met with boycott if not campaigning by Najafi clerics, in particular Sayyid al-Shirazi of Kerbala who tended to strengthen all distinctly-Shi'i practices such as Husseini ceremonies and swords-and-chains flagellations, he also refused to hold Friday Prayers, because members of the Dawa Party supported Friday Prayers, al-Shirazi labelled them "Khalisites" (Sunni-like), an accusation enough to discredit them.

FORMATION OF THE MARJIYY'A CURRENT, OR THE ISLAMIC LABOR ORGANIZATION
The Shirazi was an active current since the early 50s, only it rejected the idea of party structure and organization, however, after the arrest of Sayyid Hasan al-Shirazi it realized the opportunities of such organization, and so the current heads such as Mohammed al-Shirazi, Kazim al-Qazwini and Mohammed Taqi al-Mudarrisi began to organize the youth, I was a member of the movement even before it was fully realized, having already been a member of the circles of the Marji'yya movement, I officially started in 1969, my mission was to write Islamic books, I began to introduce new patterns into our traditional ideas, emphasizing the revolutionary aspects of Hussein's revolution and his noble railing against injustice and inequality, instead of reiterating the traditional motifts of passive mourning per se.
We began to have political courses that spoke about the upcoming Islamic revolution, this spirit spilled onto the slogans of the Husseini processions in the neighborhood, introducing terms such as the "Husseini Revolution", which replaced the specifically mournful lamenting that was the stock-in-trade of most Husseini processions. Albeit we endorsed a strong Imami Shi'i ideology, we kept an open mind to the more mainstream Sunni thought, in particular the writings of the Muslim Brotherhood leadership such as Sayyid Qutb, Mohammed Jalal Kashk and others.
Meanwhile our relationship with the Khomeinist (League of Active Clerics in Iran) strengthened after a visit by Sayyid Mustafa al-Khomeini, they began to give us copies of Imam Khomeini's lectures of Vilayet-e-Faqih, in which we saw a compatability with our own views, this played a role in the future of the relationship between our movement and the Iranian Revolution 10 years later.
DIFFICULT DAYS
As soon as Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim died in Baghdad at the end of 1970, a revolutionary spirit spread against the Baathist regime all over Iraq, the Shia organized a massive rally for al-Hakim's funeral, carrying his coffin the entire distance between Baghdad and Najaf, when president Ahmed Hasan al-Bakr attended, cries such as "Listen, President, the Sayyid is Not a Spy...Listen, Traitor, The Sayyid is not a Spy!", after al-Hakim died, the Baathist conducted a massive deportation of the large Iranian diaspora in Iraq, especially in the cities of Najaf, Kerbala, Kadhimiya and Basra, about 50,000 citizens who were born, alongside their fathers, in Iraq - but did not get the Iraqi nationality - were deported, they used to form a base for the religious Marji'iyya opposition, and so by deporting them the regime sought to drain the lake the Marji'yya moved about in, even though the Iranians who stayed in Iraq were generally isolated from Iraqi political discourse, which partly explains the distance kept by the Shii religious movement against direct involvement in Iraqi political affairs, but they formed a fundamental backbone for the clergy, thus the deportation of this massive number of people uprooted the social structure of the rising Islamic movement in Iraq.
Facing lack of support, Sayyid Mohammed al-Shirazi found himself pressured and left Iraq at the end of 1971, thus I was promoted at the end of 1972 and we formed a five-man committee led by Hajj Ali Mohammed. In the next year the Baathist regime led massive arrests against prominent movement members such as Sayyid Kazim al-Qazwini, Sheikh Abdilzahra al-Ka'bi, Sheikh Dhiyaa al-Zubaydi and Sheikh Abdilhamid al-Muhajir, I was among the wanted but I managed to dodge the eyes of Mukhabarat. Thinking of a way out of Iraq, I first left to Bahrain in September 1973.

"TODAY IRAN, TOMORROW IRAQ"
As mentioned, we kept close ties with the Khomeinist current in Iran, which shares our Vilayet-e-Faqih ideology, no sooner than fifteen days after the revolution succeeded I found myself traveling from Kuwait to Tehran as part of a delegation congratulating Imam Khomeini.
I went with a number of friends to meet old friend Sheikh Mohammed al-Muntadhiri, who became a member of the Revolution Leadership Council, we asked him to allow us to reopen the Arabic section of the Iranian radio channel, we perceived the Iraqi regime as a "paper-mache tiger" that manipulates the world with its effective media, should we manage to uncover its fragility, Iraqis would soon revolt, and so I started writing political punditry every day after the news, highlighting the weakness of the Iraqi rgeime. We worked as Iraqi volunteers for free, and we did manage to stir some controversy, such as with our Revolution-minded Muharram special "Iraq is Seeking Its Modern-Day Hussein" (ABBAS: This was BEFORE the war broke out)
the Iranian ambassador in Baghdad once asked us to tone things down, while an employee reported that the Iranian culture minister objected to our broadcasting, I also knew through a contact that Imam Khomeini himself rejected our campaign, however, we exploited the administrative confusion at the outset of the revolution and paid heed to nobody. We attmpted to stir the Iraqi people into revolution, Sayyid Mohammed al-Shirazi who came to Iran joined our campaign and began to issue repeated statements against the regime. It was obvious that our broadcasting had some impact on the bewildered Iraqi regime, which tried to respond to what we said on a day-to-day basis. Some analysts even considered the Arabic-language broadcastings as a reason for the outbreak of war.
Soon our broadcast attracted the attention of the Dawa Party, whose members began migrating to Iran. Competition broke out between members of Dawa and Islamic Labor, which led to my withdrawal a year after I first started. By that time a young Iraqi conducted a telephone interview with al-Sadr I, which was followed by Khomeini issuing an open statement to Sadr I, demanding for him to stay in Iraq after news reached him that Sadr intends to leave Iraq to Iran, this statement shocked everyone, including Sadr, as it signified Khomeini prepping up Sadr to lead the revolution in Iraq, which scared the Iraqi regime into action, leading to Sadr's prompt arrest and execution.


NEXT: IRAN's DIVERSITY

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