Liaison office of Grand Ayatullah Sayyid Ali Al Sistani (L.M.H.L) in London, Europe, North and South America.

English translation of the response by the Office of Ayatullah Seestani in Najaf Al-Ashraf to questions by Associated Press.

In The Name of Allah The Merciful, Most Merciful

Assalamu alaikum warahmatullah wabarakatoh

Your Eminence..

1- Is there anything that should be done to unify Shia ranks in Iraq, especially after recent events in the holy city of Karbala ?
2- You issued a fatwa some months ago urging an election of people to write the future Iraqi constitution. Do you not think voting on a constitution drafted by people chosen from various sectors and levels of society is legitimate enough?
3- Why is it that we do not hear more from you on issues that concern the Iraqi people and Iraq - especially during these critical times in the history of the country?

With many thanks

Hamza Hindawi
Correspondent for the (American)
Associated Press agency in Baghdad


In The Name of Allah The Merciful, Most Merciful

1- Differences of opinion and directions within the Shia arena are quite natural - just like any other arena - so there is no cause for concern. Normal dialogue between the parties in question is the ideal way to solve any disputes. Respect for the majority’s opinion by the minority without the majority trying to dominate and rule over the minority is the basis that has to be observed in politics.
The armed clashes in Karbala between the residents and some armed factions emanated from the absence of an effective central authority and the widespread availability of weapons in the hands of undisciplined elements. His Eminence has previously stressed several months ago, in all his meetings with members of the Governing Council and other officials and ministers, the necessity for taking swift and decisive action to withdraw all unauthorized weapons form the people and to support the Iraqi police force with proper manpower and equipment so they can do their work that is protecting society from anything that may undermine its security. Regrettably, they have not taken - or they have not been permitted to take – essential measures in this regard until the situation has reached its present state. New problems may also arise if the initiative is not taken to implement the steps that have been emphasized by His Eminence.

Everyone has to know that His Eminence is not a party in any dispute that occurs here or there and that his paternal attention has been and will continue to encompass all Iraqis. His Office in Najaf has asked Dr. Hussain Sharestani to spare no effort in solving the dispute that occurred in Karbala and to reach an accord among all the parties in question to purge the elements of discord. Big efforts were made in this regard, culminating in an agreement between all parties to disarm from within the vicinity of the two holy shrines and other important places and to form a committee to implement these measures.

2- At present there is nobody that can actually choose the members of the constitution drafting council in a way that is acceptable to everyone, such that members of the council may fairly represent all sectors of Iraqi society. It is clear that personal, community and ethnic interests, as well as party politics and sectarian issues will in one way or another influence the selection process. Thus the established council would lack legitimacy and there will be no point then in voting [yes or no] on the drafted constitution. There is no substitute for a general election to choose the members of the constitution council.

3- Notwithstanding His Eminence’s great concern and on going monitoring of the situation in Iraq on all fronts, he has been careful in not participating in politics thus making way for those politicians chosen by the people to undertake this task. His Eminence is just pleased to give advice and guidance to visiting people and members of the governing council meeting him as well as ministers or leaders of political parties and others.

It is rather unfortunate some of the media are exploiting this stance from time to time to disseminate false news and circulate baseless rumors.

Seal of the Office of Ayatullah Seestani in Najaf
21 Sha’ban 1424
18 October 2003