Al Jazeera reports that “an aide to Muqtada al-Sadr has lashed out at Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most revered Shia cleric, for keeping silent over clashes that have killed hundreds in Baghdad”:
Speaking at Friday prayers, Sheikh Sattar Battat, an aide to al-Sadr, said he was “surprised” that al-Sistani had failed to condemn the violence.
“We are surprised by the silence in Najaf where the highest Shiite religious authority is based,” he said, referring to al-Sistani.
For 50 days Sadr City is being bombed … Children, women and old people are being killed by all kinds of US weapons, and Najaf remains silent.”
Battat said the al-Sadr movement has not seen any “reaction or fatwa [religious decree] from Najaf” criticising the government assault on Shia fighters in Sadr City.
“For us this means that Najaf accepts the massacre in Sadr City,” he said.
Much of Muqtada al-Sadr’s legitimacy is based on the legacy of his father, Grand Ayatollah Sadeq al-Sadr, who built his movement in the 1990s among Iraq’s poorest Shia, and was assassinated by Saddam’s regime in 1999.
One of the central elements of the elder Sadr’s program (and now of Muqtada’s) was a distinction between the “silent clerics” (represented by Sistani and the Najaf establishment) — bookish sorts who stay remote from the lives of their people — and the “speaking clerics” who take part in the suffering and struggle of the Shia, as Sadeq did. And here the “silent clerics” once again stayed silent while Shia were crushed in Sadr City, of all places, while medical care, food, and shelter are being doled out in Muqtada’s name. It doesn’t require any math to see that Sadr benefits politically from this.