November 12, 2005

the turban is not the summit

The clerics had only to thunder-clap, for the faithful, in their tens of thousands to pour in, to the streets. A massive rally was held in support of the clerics' position on the proposed codification of family law. The crowds, which stretched close to 2 km long, might not be fully briefed on the issues at hand, but they clearly believed that what was good for the clerics was good for the country. Gross underreporting by Al-Ayam and Akhbar-al-Khaleej notwithstanding, the demonstration was an unmitigated success; a strong message and show of influence by the leading clerics of the land to the powers of the day. For many a turbaned soul that Wednesday, it must have been an exceptionally ebullient night.

It was not without its share of irony of course. The self-proclaimed representatives of the transcendental were up in arms and banners over the most worldly and mundane of matters. The sole, exclusive organs of a Shia theology that sided historically with the vulnerable and the underdog were seemed to be slighting the plight of women in favour of guarding the juristic vault. You might have wished that such a rally was called for at the Friday’s prayers of February 15, 2002, a day after promulgating the present constitution, and how that stance would have altered where we are today. But you can’t blame some people for being what they are, the happy perennial hill sitters rather than the occasional summiteers. The presumed saviours too are unwitting product of the parochialism of a locale, the historicism of a text. (Of all the chapters of Shia jurisprudence - edifying as some can be, the standard treatise on the definition of marriage is a notable disgrace).

In politics, like in marriage, you have to accept your partner/s as they are. Whether they acted out of piety, deep rooted conservatism, fending against the statizing of the last bastion of state-free domains, masked self/group interest - or all of the above, the morning after raises a pressing question.

Now, that the average people have given the clerics this massive shot in the arms, and in a sense scratched their back, would their eminences become emboldened enough to return the favour, and scratch ordinary people's back? Would they side with the cause of the discriminated against, the unemployed, the landless, and the poor? Not those shy, lukewarm pronouncements that begin and end on a Friday’s pulpit, but a support with the same impressive vehemence and tenacity by which they prosecuted this crusade of theirs.

Can people hope to be optimistic, for once?


At 5:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Things seem to be heating up more than usual. Qassim's call for a new constitution, the people's show of force on the streets, the birth of a new '7aqq' movement, the sidelining of Alwefaq after it signed up to to the Societies Law, all evidence of strong defiance. Qassim's statements also seem to be highly influenced by the situation in Iraq and Sistani's position to the political events there. The latter being the main driving force behind the support for the fragile democracy taking shape there.

At 1:32 AM, Blogger Bahrania said...

I just had a random thought, are you the frog next door? ;)


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