Thursday, June 14, 2007

Voices From the Middle East: Part II: Grand Ayatullah al-Sistani Statement on Second Samarra Bombing

" Once again evil hands returned to violate the sanctity of the Askari shrine in Samarra by targeting the remaining minarets of this holy site. This heinous crime just shows the extent of the perpetrators’ hatred towards the household of the Prophet [Muhammad], may God bless him and his family, and their relentless efforts to ignite the sectarian fire between the citizens of beloved Iraq.
The religious Marja’iyyah [Twelver Shi'i religious council of grand ayatullahs in Iraq] expresses its extreme anger and condemnation at this evil attack. It greatly regrets that the responsible authorities have not fulfilled their obligation in protecting this sacred Shrine and calls upon the beloved faithful, during these trying times, to be patient and exercise restraint and avoid any revenge action against innocent people and places considered holy to others. We hope the government will take the initiative to implement its promise and take swift procedures to provide the required protection for the holy shrine and its reconstruction. There is not power except the power of God The High and Mighty."
Note: Retaliatory attacks against Sunni Arab Iraqis and their mosques by Shi'i militias continued today unabated despite calls from al-Sistani, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (a Shi'i Arab), and other religious leaders for calm. The authority wielded by al-Sistani and his colleagues has been seriously weakened as Iraq descends further into a bloody inter-sectarian civil war. Shi'i militias such as Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army and its splinter groups (such as Mahmoud Sarkhi al-Hassani's movement) and the Badr Corps of the Supreme Islamic Council in Iraq (formerly the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq) have ignored calls against retaliatory violence against Sunnis. Shi'i attacks on Sunni Arabs, once reserved for attacks on insurgents and militants connected with al-Qa'ida in the Land of the Two Rivers, has become increasingly random over the past year as thousands of Iraqis have been murdered in the streets.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Shi'i Shrine in Samarra Attacked Again

The al-Askariyya Shrine in Samarra, which was bombed in February 2006, was attacked for a second time with a massive bomb. Two of the shrine's minarets were destroyed in the most recent attack. The dome was destroyed in the earlier attack. The shrine is the burial place of two of the 12 Ithna-'Ashariyya Shi'i Imams and is believed to be the site where the absent Twelfth Imam will return at an appointed time. The descent into a full-scale civil war between Iraqi Sunni and Shi'i Arabs began after the first attack and early reports say that Sunni mosques have already been attacked in retaliation for today's bombing.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Buddhist Monks Listen to the Dalai Lama Speak in Australia

Buddhist monks listen to the Dalai Lama giving a speech during his tour of Australia.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Voices from the Middle East-Part I: Friday Sermon of Lebanese Grand Ayatullah Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah

"The Bush Administration continues to play the role of the cop that protects its interests in the Middle East, and points its political, economic and security weapons against the region’s interests, claiming deceitfully that it is seeking to promote democracy and human rights, at a time it is planning to establish a political and security alliance of several Arab dictatorships which it claims to be moderate..."

*Grand Ayatullah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah

Friday Sermon; May 25, 2007

Article on Fadlallah's library, reportedly destroyed by the Israelis last summer:

"There is no censorship over any of the titles," Fadlallah said in his office a few blocks away. His thin eyebrows arched under his black turban, which framed his ascetic face and snowy beard. "You can't silence an idea by imprisoning it."

Fadlallah has long been alleged (falsely) to be or have been Hizbu'llah's "spiritual leader." Both the party and the grand ayatullah have consistently refuted this. The party's adherence, at least formally, to the false-ayatullah and Supreme Leader of Iran, Sayyid 'Ali Khamenei, disproves allegations that Fadlallah is its "spiritual leader." Recent scholarly works by Ahmad Nizar Hamzeh and Jamal Sankari have done much to show the falsity of these often-repeated claims. Nonetheless, Israel bombed Fadlallah's house, offices, and library last summer.
At that time relations between the grand ayatullah and Hizbu'llah leader Shaykh Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah were tense due to criticisms Fadlallah had of some of the party's political stances. Fadlallah was also one of the first major Muslim leaders to condemn the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Haleh Esfandiari Charged (Unjustly) by Iranian Government in Assault on Academic Freedom

Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Middle East program at the non-partisan Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, has been formally charged with espionage and "endangering Iranian security" according to Iranian judiciary spokesman 'Ali Reza Jamshidi. Esfandiari, a U.S. and Iranian dual-citizen, has been held without charges f0r three weeks.

In late December her passports were seized. She has been interrogated without proper legal representation for months. The Iranian government was/is reportedly interested in the activities of the Wilson Center regarding Iran. According to Lee Hamilton, the center's director, most of this information is available to the public via the center's web site:

"Esfandiari has been formally charged with endangering national security through propaganda against the system and espionage for foreigners. ... The complainant is the Intelligence Ministry," said Jamshidi.

"We are extremely disheartened to receive this news," said Hamilton. "Haleh is a scholar. The work she does at the Wilson Center is open, non-partisan, and includes a broad range of views. At the Wilson Center, we do not take positions on issues, but rather, we bring all sides of an issue together for dialogue. As director of the Middle East Program, Haleh ensured that there was an open dialogue and that she convened meetings which allowed participants and attendees to discuss all views. We do not engage in propaganda. The Wilson Center receives zero funding from the U.S. government's fund to promote democracy in Iran. Her detention is an affront to the rule of law and common decency. The Wilson Center's message to the Iranian government is simple: Let Haleh go."

Haleh Esfandiari’s husband and Robinson Professor of History at George Mason University, said “these charges against Haleh are totally without foundation; there is not a scrap of evidence to support them. She should be set free and allowed to rejoin her family.”

Last 2 paragraphs taken verbatim from Woodrow Wilson Center press release.

For more information:

Letters protesting the unjust detention of Esfandiari and this inexcusable assault on academic freedom can be addressed to the Iranian interests section at the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington, D.C. Personally, I do not normally write letters but in this case I feel the situation warrants it. Academic freedom must not be allowed to perish because of the despicable attempts by those who wish to reign in expression, discussion, and debate.

2209 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W.Washington, D.C. 20007

Tel: (202) 965-4990 Fax: (202) 965-1073

Office Hours: Monday through Friday 8:30 am - 5:00 pm