Ali Sistani

After recent conversations with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg and others who are of a more conservative bent, I started to reflect on Western scholarship and American conservative commentary on Islam. Western historiography of Islam provides a treasure-trove of sympathetic and hostile criticism of the Middle East’s last-born, earth-shaking faith.

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Panic Room

AMERICA’S ROOM TO maneuver in Iraq seems to be narrowing by the day. In the latest unraveling of expectations, the Bush team’s plans for postwar Iraq have been hijacked by a cleric who hasn’t left his house in six years. Emissaries of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani made clear last week that Iraq’s senior Shia cleric has no use for the phased transition to Iraqi self-rule envisioned by the Bush administration, preferring direct elections instead. And, in Washington, which had planned for caucuses controlled by the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi Governing Council, the spectacle of th

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Slumlords

A few days after American troops entered Baghdad, I went to Saddam City, a sprawling slum inhabited almost exclusively by Shia Muslims. But, by the time I got there, Saddam City was gone. Yes, the people were still there, as was the poverty—the kids playing barefoot soccer on dirt lots and the young men carrying AK-47 assault rifles. But it was Saddam City no longer. THIS IS SADR CITY, announced a spray-painted sign as I drove into the slum, renamed for Sheik Mohammed Sadek Al Sadr, who was killed along with two of his sons in 1999 for speaking out against Saddam Hussein.

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