The Slatest

Spiritual Leader of Iraq’s Religious Majority Calls for Citizens to Take Up Arms Against Rebels

New Iraqi army volunteers.

REUTERS/Mushtaq Muhammed

A representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the top spiritual leader of the world’s Shiite Muslims, announced today that all able-bodied Iraq citizens are duty-bound to help fight jihadist ISIS insurgents. Shiites hold a majority in Iraq. From the New York Times:

In a statement during Friday prayers, a representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the senior Shiite cleric in Iraq, said it was “the legal and national responsibility of whoever can hold a weapon, to hold it to defend the country, the citizens and the holy sites.”

Ayatollah Sistani has enormous stature among Shiites, but is also respected by Sunnis and other groups because in the darkest days of the sectarian fighting in 2006 he refrained from inflammatory language and repeatedly reached out to Sunnis, Kurds, the country’s Christians and other minorities.

The rebels have been driving south toward Baghdad. Their advance appears to have been stopped 70 miles from that city for the time being; they did, however, seize two more towns in the country’s east today.