The role of the ulama in Shiite social movements Bahrain, Lebanon, and Iraq
Maynard, Brian P.
Baylouny, Anne Marie
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The Shiite ulama have become politically active in past decades, beginning in the 1960s-70s with the articulation of the new ideology that empowered the Iranian Revolution. Though a significant portion of the ulama retained their quietist tradition, enough felt motivated by wilayet e-faqih to become a major force in the political landscape. The ulama were particularly well suited to lead a successful social movement. Shiite tradition and symbology, once released from the bonds of quietism, were perfectly suited to motivate a struggle for justice. Despite the ulama's successful leadership, they are most influential when they are part of an underground opposition movement. The three case studies demonstrate that when movements reach a certain level of success, the ulama tend to retreat back to their studies. While many significant ulama continue to pay lip service to the wilayet e-faqih, many have also admitted that it is not practical in their country's particular circumstance. This is not to say that they are not influential, but that they prefer to let others perform daily political tasks. The scowling, turbaned 'alim is not necessarily the uncontrolled voice of radicalism bent upon founding an Islamic state.
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