Kadhem al-Haeri, a cleric who has close ties with the Islamic Dawa Party and the Iranian regime, issued a fatwa March 30 banning the election of secular candidates in the upcoming elections. Large banners were hung in many areas of Baghdad and included a picture of the marja (spiritual guide) and the signature of the party’s office. The banners read: “It is forbidden to elect secular candidates.” The banners, hung late in March, are still present in some areas in Baghdad. (…)
Misleading stereotypes about secularism pave the way in Iraq for religious parties. Secularism is depicted as going against religion and threatening to ban the religious freedoms Shiites acquired after the fall of Hussein. Many also believe that since the old regime was secularist, any call for secularism means a return to the previous era — even though the idea that the previous regime was secular is totally wrong.
It is striking that extremist Sunni and Shiite religious movements, regardless of their differences and religious conflicts, are united over opposing secularists, which results in the latter being threatened by terrorist groups, militias and even the government itself. While the government disregards the sectarian statements of some of its members, it issued arrest warrants against secularists for criticizing the government’s underachievement and inclination toward sectarian approaches.