Sunni Clerics to Order Abandoning Insurgency in Favor of Political Participation
Several key Iraqi Sunni clerics are working on a fatwa ordering followers to abandon violence in favor of working to gain influence within the democratic process.
Several senior clerics of Iraq’s disaffected Sunni Muslim minority will soon issue a decree calling on followers of the faith to vote in upcoming elections and help write a new constitution, a prominent Sunni leader said Monday. The step could draw Sunni Arabs away from the insurgency and into a political process they have steadfastly rejected. Adnan Dulaimi, who heads the Sunni Endowment, the government agency responsible for Sunni religious affairs, said the framers of the religious edict, or fatwa , would seek the support of other groups in the fractious Sunni community before issuing it.
The push for the fatwa, together with the National Assembly’s formal approval Monday of the addition of 15 Sunnis to the committee writing a draft constitution, suggested that the slow and often contentious efforts to bring Sunni Arabs into the political sphere were beginning to bear fruit.
The Shiite Muslim-led government of Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari has encouraged Sunni Arabs to embrace politics and to abandon the two-year-old insurgency dominated by Sunnis and foreign fighters. Jafari’s Shiite coalition won the most votes in the Jan. 30 elections, giving it a majority in the 275-seat National Assembly and putting Iraq’s Shiite majority in power for the first time in the country’s modern history. Sunni Arabs, who dominated political and military institutions until President Saddam Hussein was toppled by the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, largely boycotted the vote and emerged with only 17 assembly seats.
The Sunni Arab leadership, traditionally more divided than that of the Shiites, began moving away from rejection of the new government in March, when the influential Association of Muslim Scholars supported a fatwa calling on Sunnis to serve in Iraq’s nascent security forces.
The proposed edict announced Monday would call for Sunni participation in writing the draft constitution, which is meant to be completed by Aug. 15, and for all Iraqis to vote in the next election, which would be held Dec. 15 if the constitution is prepared on time and ratified in an October referendum. The decree would also call for Sunnis to serve on the country’s electoral commission.
I’m skeptical that this will influence very many of the “insurgents,” since few of the home-grown variety are motivated by matters of faith. What it may do, however, is give cover to those tired of the violence so that they may quit the fight without losing face.