Yesterday Maliki went to visit Sistani to discuss the latest security and political developments with him.
It's the kind of a move that reflects the government's persistence to let clerics make the political decisions for the country. As if they haven't done enough harm so far!
Instead of reaching out to his partners in the political process from other groups he goes in the exact opposite direction and I really don't know what he thought such visit could do to improve his position, especially at a time when he's in desperate need to mend the rift in his cabinet.
When I think of this meeting I see that it can't do anything good for Iraq. It probably can serve one particular segment of the people but most likely it's an attempt to fix the damage caused by the Shia-Shia conflict following the recent incidents in Karbala which further isolated the "coalition of four" from the rest of Shia parties.
It remains difficult for Sistani to deal with that too because he doesn't only not represent all Iraqis; he doesn't represent all the Shia either. This man had isolated himself in a small room in the back alleys of Najaf and he communicates with the world only through his agents and representatives so he can't be expected to offer much help to anyone. And it's wrong to think that the man can solve any problem with a single fatwa—we had seen many examples where fatwas and statements by dozens of clerics of both sects that called for calm and rejecting violence got ignored and couldn't change a thing in the situation on the ground.
The problem with Maliki who's the leader of the Islamic Dawa Party is that he's just like all other Islamists who insist that Islam is the solution and that clerics are the ones who can deliver that solution.
But reality proved that political Islam is in fact the problem, not the solution. And this is true not only in Iraq but in many other countries in the region that are full of political Islamist movements. They build their rhetoric on what they like to call the golden age of Islam and promise that a new golden age could come if people returned to the roots of Islam…but what happened when Islamists ruled? Definitely not a golden age of any sort.
The first problem with their theory is that they can't say which version of Islam represents the solution. With all the sectarian differences we can see, saying that Islam is the solution is an empty slogan that requires a lot of clarification.
But the truth is, every rival party believes that their faith is the only true faith and when this dispute infected the political scene in the most violent way Islam became the most prominent problem. And that's how we ended up in the middle of a Sunni-Shia conflict as well as Sunni-Sunni and Shia-Shia conflicts.
The recent incidents in Karbala are striking evidence on how mixing politics with religion made brothers slaughter one another in a bloody war for power. Even the holy shrines were not spared in the fighting.
It's ironic that when a Muslim kills another Muslim or destroys the sites revered by his own people no one speaks of it here as a major problem but if a non-Muslim does that the uproar would be legendary!
In spite of all that Islamists still insist on their slogan and after all what happened Ahmedinejad wants Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia to "fill the vacuum" when America leaves Iraq…I can only imagine the way in which the vacuum would be filled and levels of violence that would accompany that!
The people remain the most important item in the equation as they are the ones who have the actual power to decide the long-term strategic choices with their votes.
In Iraq the experience with the rule of Islamists has certainly reduced the numbers of people who support the idea of Islamic rule and a there's a growing number of people who now began to question the idea about Islam being the solution.
So, there will be a great long battle between the two ideas; between Islamic rule and the separation between religion and the state--the current problem is that the people are divided into two, almost equal, groups in this respect. This means none of the two can prevail at this stage but at the same time the performance of the government made mostly of Islamists will no doubt lead to a steady decrease in its popularity.
Islamists have failed to offer a chance for a better life whether when they were in the opposition or when they got to rule the country. I think that's why they try to sell the idea of death instead of life; they failed to offer a better life so they picked up the slogan of death and "martyrdom" to promise a better life, but in an imaginary heaven; not in real life.
This strategy, in some time that cannot be specified right now, will mark the beginning of actual death but it will the death of political Islamist movements and maybe Iraq, the country where people have the right to make a choice, will become a grave for political Islam.
It will take more than one round of elections to declare them dead but I see that time is not on the Islamists' side.
The war is going to be long because it's a war of ideas—the conflict is not going to be a localized one and will have different forms because I believe the whole world is concerned and will take part in one way or another.
Identifying and supporting the true moderates would be a fair weapon to use in this war and I think American and the rest of the free world will keep trying to support positive reforms towards a better life to defeat the ideology of death.