Ibrahim Sarkis

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IRAQI MINIBUSES PROVIDE DIVERSE POLITICAL FORUM By Anthony Shadid

Washington Post, DC Dec. 12, 2005

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Judgment unquestioned Ibrahim Sarkis and Hadi Abu Hassan soon boarded. Sarkis, an Armenian Christian toting a bag of groceries, would vote for Allawi; Abu Hassan was undecided but said he would likely vote for the United Iraqi Alliance, the coalition of Shiite religious parties that, by reputation, has the support of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's most powerful Shiite cleric.

To followers like Abu Hassan, the reclusive Sistani is the marja, whose judgments go unquestioned by the most religious Shiites. His authority is known as the marjaiya.

"Frankly, I think the marjaiya understands the situation," said Abu Hassan, 45, a former prisoner of war who lives on a pension.

Sarkis shook his head. "People here are secular, not religious," he said. "Religion is for God, the country is for everyone."

Abu Hassan stared downward. "Both can continue along the same path," he answered, his voice steady, if soft. "There should be some kind of balance."

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