There is a story told among Shiites today that as the revered Imam Hussein lay dying on the fields of Karbala in 680 A.D., he cursed the people of what is now Iraq for having deserted him in his hour of need. "May you never satisfy a ruler," he gasped. "And may you never be satisfied by a ruler."Emphasis in original. There's more:
While I'm not sure how widespread that legend is among rank-and-file Shiites, it's worth remembering as we watch radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr lead his nation off a cliff. As Hussein's anathema implies, there is something unstable and ungovernable at the heart of Shiism — something that is not specific to Sadr's intifada, but which in fact runs through the entire religious sect: a deep attachment to lost causes, alienation, failure, and death. And this, in turn, suggests that our struggle with radical Islam has only just begun.
As I've written here before, during my two trips to Iraq I've studied the Shia — praying in their mosques, attending their religious gatherings, interviewing their clerics and, most of all, examining their teachings and iconography. This last aspect particularly startled me: severed heads, amputated hands, Arabic letters dripping blood — and that's what found in mosques.
Unless you have the instincts of a pre-Reformation Catholic peasant-or Mel Gibson — it is nearly impossible to grasp this appreciation of suffering and death. But here it is not death as a redemptive power, death as spectacle — a public expression that seeks the admiration of man as much as God. This is what, in my mind, separates Shia radicalism from its Sunni counterpart. Wahabbi and Palestinian suicide bombers seek honor and glorification by killing their enemies; the Shiites' spiritual apotheosis, on the contrary, comes from having their enemies kill them — a kind of suicidal exhibitionism that fetishizes Hussein's fate at Karbala. Early Christians felt that the blood of martyrs nourished the Church; Shiites believe that martyr blood will embellish their own holiness and that of their families for untold generations.Draw your own conclusions about why these people attacked, and what it will take to end the attacks.