A Shiite Schism On Clerical Rule

July 17, 2009

Author: Anthony Shadid

Source: The Washington Post


As Iran simmers over its disputed presidential election, Shiite clerics in Iraq are looking across the border with a sense of satisfaction that they have figured out a more durable answer to a question that has beset Shiite Islam for centuries: What role should religion play in politics?

No one in this city, which stands as the world's most venerable seat of Shiite scholarship, is boasting. Nor is there any swagger among the most senior clerics and their retinue of turbaned students and advisers. Befitting the ways of the tradition-bound Shiite seminary, points are made in whispers and hints, through allegories and metaphor.

But three decades after the Iranian revolution brought to power one notion of clerical rule -- and six years after the fall of Saddam Hussein helped enshrine another version of religious authority here -- the relationship between religion and the state in Iraq, clerics here say, seems more enduring than the alternative in neighboring Iran.