Thursday, June 17, 2010
Najaf in Vatican's Footsteps?
A growing sex scandal that recently surfaced is probably going to haunt the Najaf clergy, particularly that of Ayatollah Ali Sistani, for a while. Recently, a bunch of video clips appeared on youtube, in which Sistani's representative in Maysan province is seen engaged in sexual action with several women.
So far, the leaks, discussion and speculations have been limited to online forums and blogs, so I must point out that other than I cannot guarantee the accuracy of the additional details...All I can say with certainty though is that the videos of the playboy cleric do exist.
So, reportedly, this guy, Manaf Il-Naji ( مناف الناجي Sistani's representative in Amara-Maysan, who leads prayers and collects the religious tax for Najaf) had seduced or drugged over a dozen different women; some of whom married, and recorded the intimate engagements, supposedly, to blackmail the women and ensure they continue to obey his orders. It is strange though that one of the women is said to be a "colleague" of Il-Naji and the head of a religious women organization that answers to the same hierarchy. The memory card or the camera got lost or stolen and someone posted the videos on the internet...BOOM!
Word reached the families and tribes of the women and, reportedly, some "honor" murders took place and the tribes are demanding Il-Naji's head.
Clerics' involvement in crimes of sexual exploitation is not news, they do it all over the world all the time, often abusing their status and authority in the process of perpetuating and hiding their atrocities. The phenomenon/crimes turn into disasters when the establishment (Sunni, Shiite, Catholic, whatever) rushes to defend the sexual predators and cover up their crime, and it looks like Sistani's establishment is no exception.
Word in the forums and blogs is that Sistani dispatched Ahmed Al-Ansari, one of his assistants on a mission to calm the tribes down, call for restraint and contain the scandal. Ansari was supposedly armed with lots of cash to bribe/persuade sheiks and needy families alike. Other people claim that Il-Naji is currently hiding in or around Sistani's office in Najaf, while others are speculating that he fled to Iran. Some websites posted excerpts of an alleged letter from Sistani to the tribes asking them to "protect the faith by accepting reconciliation and turning the page on what happened...a scandal would forever be a stigma in the history of our faith and would allow Ba'athists and Takfiris to smear and insult the leaders and symbols of the faith."
If true, the letter shows that in Najaf, as in pretty much any other religious establishment, image, influence and power come first. The poor bastards on whose shoulders this power and prestige are built can go to hell.
I have so far seen no mention of this story in any local newspapers, TV or any other traditional media sources, but the videos exist, so we know it's there. My guess is that editors and managers have deliberately chosen to ignore the news because they don't want to face the consequences of messing with the untouchables, which are certain to be very serious.