As U.S. forces swept through Saddam Hussein’s numerous palaces following the 2003 invasion into Iraq, an interesting observation was made in one. "Believers Palace," in Baghdad, located today within the Green Zone, had a huge room where the ceiling opened up to a second floor.
Visible on the wall at the second-floor level, but in Arabic large enough to be seen from the first floor, was an inscription with two names. One was Saddam Hussein’s; the other Allah’s. The appearance of the two together is not noteworthy, however, the order in which they appeared was. Saddam’s name was first. To believers, this represents an affront to Allah, suggesting Islam’s only deity was subservient to Saddam, rather than Saddam subservient to Allah.
But this sequencing — as disrespectful as it was to Allah — was more telling about Saddam. It illustrated an arrogance evidencing his personal belief that he — a mere mortal — was above Allah. And, that arrogance manifested itself in an opulent lifestyle of entitlement — entitlement to unimaginable wealth.
In 1979, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was swept into power by Iran’s Islamic Revolution. The ayatollah oversaw a brutal transition of power that made the French Revolution almost two centuries earlier pale by comparison. But in the wake of Iran becoming an Islamic state, it is that country’s religious leaders who today benefit the most from the revolution that brought them to power.
As these clerics have claimed for themselves Iran’s vast resources, they have broken into the ranks of the world’s wealthiest people.
The supreme leader who replaced Khomeini upon his death in 1989, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, heads the list of Iranian clerics who are now billionaires. He enjoys a lavish lifestyle not unlike that enjoyed by Iran’s Shah before he was forced to flee the country in 1979. An avid horseman, Khamenei boasts some of the finest horses in the world—even flying them to different locations for his riding pleasure when he travels. Clearly, Iran is a country where clerical influence translates into enormous wealth for “men of the cloth” and their families.
There is a certain arrogance displayed by Muslim leaders of non-democratic states that manifests itself in the form of personal entitlements. These leaders use Islam as a vehicle by which to secure their own personal power and wealth at the expense of followers who become complacent in accepting it.
For clerics, such as those in Iran, Islam serves as a beacon of light—not so much to guide their spiritual life as to guide them to the path of enormous riches. By what claim of right do they do so while their people bear the burden of a struggling economy caused by sanctions imposed as a result of actions by these same clerics in violation of international law?
There is a commonality of purpose among these Muslim imams of the extremist ilk, both in Iran and elsewhere, that goes unnoticed by their flocks. Followers tithe at least 10% of their income to clerics who espouse violence and the taking of innocent lives to further the cause of Islam. As the imams’ wealth and power grows, so too does the intensity of their violent rhetoric. Few moderate clerics establish the wealth and power enjoyed by their more virulent preaching brethren.
In the West, we impose a certain moral standard upon religious leaders providing us with spiritual guidance. When they “talk the talk,” sermonizing we should love our fellow man, we expect them to “walk the walk”—and demonstrate this by their daily actions. Nowhere was this standard better exemplified than by the story of the “Four Immortal Chaplains” of World War II fame.
On February 3, 1943, the USS Dorchester—a troop transport carrying more than 900 men—was torpedoed just after midnight off the coast of Greenland by a German submarine. As panic struck those onboard, four military chaplains rushed topside to calm them.
The four—two Protestant chaplains, one Catholic priest and a Jewish rabbi—began handing out lifejackets. When the lifejackets ran out, they surrendered their own, without regard to the recipients’ faith. As the ship slipped beneath the waves only 18 minutes after the torpedo struck, witnesses observed the four chaplains—locked arm-in-arm—each praying in his own way for the survival of the others.
Contrast this with the hypocrisy of Islam’s extremist clerics. They preach to their flocks about followers sacrificing their lives to kill infidels or to conduct suicide bombings that claim the innocent lives of fellow believers. Yet there is no recorded case of such clerics having “walked the walk” by engaging in these life-ending activities themselves. Not only that, their own children seem to have earned a free pass as there is no record of the offspring of extremist imams pursuing such a career path either. In fact, many sons opt instead to follow in the much safer and more lucrative footsteps of their fathers, encouraging a new generation of followers to continue the violence.
Thus, as extremist imams preach to their followers that sacrificing one’s life and fortune will reap rewards for one in the next life, it is spiritual guidance these same imams choose not to pursue for themselves so as to be able to reap material rewards in this life. As their followers continue to make such sacrifices, these clerics continue to accumulate wealth.
While Saddam was not a religious leader, he still used Islam as a tool to manipulate followers to his advantage. But he lacked a core belief in Islam as evidenced by the disrespect he rendered unto Allah.
Such arrogance is endemic of a mindset of many Islamic extremist clerics today who simply use religion as a tool for personal entitlements by which to further their lavish lifestyles at the expense of their flocks. Sadly, the road to their personal wealth and power is paved with the bones of followers blindly accepting their hypocritical teachings.