Iraq clerics forbid use of religious symbols in election campaign
By Sultan Ahmed (Jafariya News)
BAGHDAD, Iraq: A senior Iraqi cleric, Ayatullah Sayyid Hadi al-Modarressi, urged candidates running in Iraq's next provincial election not to use religious symbols and images of clerics in campaign advertising.
Talking to Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa, al-Modarressi said: "I do not support the mixing of religion in politics and the use of religious symbols for political purposes".
Iraqi political parties should not use names or images of religious leaders to make political gains, the cleric said.
In recommendations issued early this month, the Iraqi government said mosques should be off limits for campaigning in key provincial elections scheduled for October.
The Iraqi parliament is expected to debate a ban on the use of photos of anyone but the candidates in election campaigns in the hope of preventing a repetition of the use of images of revered religious figures as was seen in the 2005 election campaign.
Early this month, the country's most revered religious figure, [Grand] Ayatullah Sayyid 'Ali al-Husayni al-Sistani, prohibited the use of his name or image by any political group. [He was probably singling out the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, led by Sayyid 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Hakim, the most pro-Iranian Iraqi Shi'i political party and the main rival to the Arab Shi'i Iraqi nationalist Sadr Movement.]
Ayatullah Sayyid Hadi al-Modarressi comes from a prominent clerical family in Karbala, Iraq, though his surname suggests Iranian origins. His son, Mahdi, studied in the al-Zaynabiyya Hawza (seminary) in Damascus, Syria and in the Hawza of Qum. Mahdi is a popular speaker, particularly with Shi'i youth groups around the world. He speaks Arabic, English, and Persian fluently and is an excellent and moving speaker. The extended family also include several grand ayatullahs/marja' al-taqlids ("reference point for emulation") including Muhammad Taqi al-Modarressi, a member of the current Marja'iyya (senior Shi'i clerical council) of Najaf, Mahdi al-Shirazi, Muhammad Shirazi, and Sadiq Shirazi.