The Hayat Al-Ulama Al-Muslimin and Their Role in Iraq

Recent crackdowns in Mosul have had led to the arrest of over 1,000 suspected militants and “security forces had recovered 1,400kg of explosives, 45 missiles, 263 mortar bombs and 175 assorted weapons” in Iraq. However, the Association of Muslim Scholars, before the success of the operation was known – indeed, before the operation was even complete! – had already proclaimed:

“This … [operation] clearly indicates that the military campaign has further dimensions than those announced, and that its goal is to crack down on the sons of this governorate [of Mosul] who reject the occupation and its allies, a statement said. “The AMS denounces this brutal operation which aims to liquidate all the city’s people who reject the occupiers and their destructive plans.”

Say whah!?

al-Maliki is getting rid of Islamicist militants and the AMS is complaining? Surely, the “ulema” (scholars) who comprise this group are extremists, who hate America and Iraqi government out of spite and, therefore, frame every military maneuver as an act of aggression on the part of imperialist America. That’s how I see it, but Sergei informs us that

The Association of Muslim Scholars is an influential Sunni group that opposes the occupation and the government through non-violent means. Although it does not object to armed resistance in principle, it does believe that attacks against civilians and sectarian violence are against Islamic law, and is thus no great friend of al-Qaeda.

Sure, why not, I’ve got no problem with that statement. In fact, I see the AMS as a power hungry organization involved in the attempt to destabilize Iraq, so that, when the time comes, they will have the religious authority over non-al-Qaida affiliated Sunnis. Although the group is Sunni, I noted to Sergei that:

It sounds to me like the AMS and Muqtada al-Sadr share the same ideology.


But, Sergei would hear none of it. He chastises me:

it’s extremely important to remember that just because two people (or groups) dislike us, doesn’t mean that they can be lumped together.


I agree. But when we find two separate entities spewing the same anti-American, anti-Iraqi government propaganda, should we ignore it? Perhaps, since this is coming from different sources, it is all the more true?

Or maybe, just maybe, al-Sadr and the AMS are allies and do indeed share the same ideology:

An interview found on the not-so-reliable, not-so-informed Jaun Cole‘s website:

(Amarah) Why did the Association of Muslim Scholars make bilateral agreements with Muqtada al-Sadr but not with the other parties?

(Al-Dari) It is not a matter of choice. A very dangerous problem occurred, thus it is the duty of regional parties to contain it. Hence, the Al-Kalisi trend and Al-Sadr trend met with other national forces participating in the anti-occupation Iraqi National Constituent Conference to act quickly to contain the problem. This is because these parties feel that it is their particular duty and responsibility to contain the situation in the country.

(Amarah) The reports from Baghdad indicate that Al-Sadr’s forces are currently attacking the Sunni mosques and properties in Iraq, how do you comment?

(Al-Dari) The Iraqi arena is witnessing a large variety of uncontrolled acts now that cannot be attributed to a particular party.

Here we see al-Dari, a spokesman for the AMS not only admitting the alliance with al-Sadr, but apologizing for the Mahdi Army!

Al-Ahram Weekly:

AMS considers Al-Sadr, who is of Arab origin, a nationalist figure and ally.

More from David Enders

The Scholars were joined in their statement by 27 other groups, including Sadr’s. There are precedents for such cooperation despite the Shia vs. Sunni paradigm.


The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq

By far the most important hardline Sunni Arab political organization has been the Association of Muslim Scholars…

The Association is well-organized, with a newspaper named al-Basa’ir and a sophisticated website, as well as articulate representatives, such as Harith al-Dhari himself, his son Muthanna al-Dhari, chief ideologue and international spokesman Muhammad ‘Ayyash al-Kubaysi, and domestic spokesmen ‘Abd al-Salam al-Kubaysi and Bashar al-Faydhi. All of these men are regularly asked to comment on pan-Arab satellite channels like al-Jazeera and al-Arabiyya…

the Association… springs from the Muslim Brotherhood…

…despite its defense of armed resistance as both a human right and a national right, the Association was ultimately unable to withstand the lure of calling for a jihad and adopting a discourse that resembles that of the jihadi salafis in its praise of violence. Most of its defense of armed resistance is directed against “moderate ‘ulama'”-a code word for its rivals who have been more flexible toward the US presence. Muhammad ‘Ayyash al-Kubaysi states that the present crisis leaves no room for moderate political means. All efforts should be subordinated to waging a jihad because “the call to Islam is the call to jihad, because jihad is Islam.” …

That this nationalist struggle is the main defining feature of being an Iraqi and acquiring a citizen’s rights is underscored by the general attitude of the Association toward the Iraqi Shi‘a. Shi‘ism in itself is not condemned, as is the case with the salafis who regard Shi‘a as “rejectionists” (rafida) of Islam, but participation in the resistance is the main criterion for inclusion in the nation. In this regard, the Association even lays claim to the legacy of Imam Hussein. His choice to die an exemplary martyr’s death and establish a “school of martyrdom” (madrasat al-Husayn al-istishhadiyya), instead of capitulating to the “tyrant of the age” (taghut al-‘asr), has been betrayed by the Shi‘i leadership itself…

I am now justified in pointing out that the AMS and Muqtada al-Sadr have the same ideology, and indeed, are allies.

3 responses

  1. “Surely, the ‘ulema’ (scholars) who comprise this group are extremists, who hate America and Iraqi government out of spite and, therefore, frame every military maneuver as an act of aggression on the part of imperialist America.”

    That’s pretty much what I said, though I used a more objective tone and think that they “frame every military maneuver” as being directed against the insurgency, which is of course true.

    Regarding the connection between the AMS and the Mahdi Army, it does indeed exist, but your reasons for suspecting it were faulty. There is a very widespread ignorance about the myriad squabbling factions in the Middle East. The notion that “If you aren’t with us, you’re with the terrorists” has had truly devastating consequences. In particular, the insane notion that Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein were friendly with each other was part of the administration’s rational for doing al-Qaeda’s bidding in Iraq. Also, it is possible that a better understanding of the Shi’ih/Sunni divide could have prevented the Samarra incident and thus the civil war. The perception of a monolithic enemy was also partially to blame for the Vietnam War.

    May 24, 2008 at 4:44 am

  2. My reason wasn’t faulty. The discourse of both groups bore notable similarities, so I checked it out, and, it seems that they are allies. Ya gotta start somewhere and this just set off my radar, and when you think about it, that’s the only reason anyone ever has for suspecting anything, i.e. just some gut feeling. Unless they are told right off the bat, we all must make judgments about our own perceptions letting intuition and reason guide us. That’s all I did.

    May 24, 2008 at 9:17 am

  3. The key part was the checking it out. You hadn’t done that.

    May 24, 2008 at 2:58 pm

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