|Jamal al-Din has promised that full electric power will be provided by 2012 [Janabi]
Iyad Jamal al-Din, a controversial Shia cleric, is a lesser-known candidate running in the March 7 parliamentary elections.
His political platform includes strong opposition to Iranian interference in Iraqi politics and he has called for the separation of religion and state.
Jamal al-Din was born in 1961 in Najaf to a family known for being heavily engaged in science and culture.
His first encounter with politics was in 1977, when he participated in a Shia ritual which requires adherents to walk on their feet for tens or hundreds of kilometres to the Najaf shrine of the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, Ali bin Abi Talib.
The Baathist government at the time suspected that armed groups of the outlawed Dawa Party and other anti-government Shia organisations were hiding among the marching crowds and banned the rituals.
Jamal al-Din was among those who openly protested the government’s decision and soon found himself found himself on a list of wanted dissidents.
In 1979, he fled to Syria.
A few years later, he moved to Iran where he received university degrees in Islamic Sharia Law and philosophy. As he was an Arab, Tehran immediately assigned to fill the position of spiritual leader for the Shia community in Bahrain.
In 1995 ,a group representing the Shia community in Dubai asked to come to Dubai and be their Imam. He accepted the invitation.
In 2003, he was flown into Iraq from Bahrain on board a US marines helicopter, shortly after the removal of Saddam Hussein.
He landed in the southern town of Nasiriya and immediately started to mobilise other Shia into political blocs.
He stood in stark contrast to other powerful Shia leaders in Iraq; he argued against Iran’s system of rule by religious authority – wilayat al fiqh.
In the January 2005 elections, Jamal al-Din was elected as an MP running in the Iraqi National Movement coalition, chaired by Iyad Allawi.
When Allawi appeared to seek rapprochement with Iran, Jamal al-Din withdrew from the coalition and formed the Ahrar (Free) Party, which is one of several key coalitions participating in the March 7 parliamentary elections.
The Ahrar party campaign focuses on national reconciliation and termination of the de-Baathification law, which he says has been one of the fundamental reasons for Iraq’s slide into instability and violence.
His political campaign created controversy when he told Al Jazeera on March 3 that he had hired the US president’s campaign manager to oversee his election bid.
“The manager of Barack Obama’s electoral campaign is one of my campaign officials. I also use people who worked in the election campaign of John Howard, Tony Blair, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and others,” he said.
Jamal al-Din said he would work tirelessly to ensure the creation of one million jobs and a stable power grid which provides 24 hour service by 2012.