Magazine article The American Prospect

A Modern Kind of Guy

Magazine article The American Prospect

A Modern Kind of Guy

Article excerpt

WHAT DO WE KNOW about the mysterious Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani? Well, he's a democrat--for now, anyway, supporting speedy elections in Iraq, much to the chagrin of U.S. officials who were hoping to use their own team, the Iraqi National Congress, to set up a government. Al-Sistani won't have it, though. He wants all Iraqis to be able to vote--and not in the caucuses recently proposed by U.S. officials as a compromise. (How he'll feel about democracy once he has power is another question.)

So what else? The 73-year-old spiritual leader may be the "pre-eminent religious authority among the Shia," according to a Radio Free Europe writer. But for a Muslim cleric, he's a rather open-minded fellow.

First of all, he listens to arguments. "He respects everybody's opinion and every objective point," attests his Web site, www.sistani.org. "He keeps reading and researching all the time." He's known for "Discussing Subjects Politely." "He always tries to use polite phrases, and always does his best to keep the scholars' respect and veneration. …

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