In December of 2014, Dr. Ahmad Iravani visited the nation of Iraq after his visits in Iran. Dr. Iravani received the invitation to visit Iraq from the office of Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Saeed Al-Hakim. Ayatollah Al-Hakim is the most senior Shia clerics in Iraq after Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. While in his visit to Iraq, Dr. Iravani met with Grand Ayatollah Basheer al-Najafi, Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Ishaq al-Fayyad. Dr. Iravani was able to visit a charity established by Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Saeed Al-Hakim. The charity is responsible for taking care of 80,000 families that have been affected by the recent eruption of violence in the region. Dr. Iravani also visited a local refugee camp that hosts several families who have fled from their homes and territories controlled by the Islamic State and other extremist groups in the region.
While in Iraq, Dr. Iravani visited University of Kufa and met with the Dean of Law School Dr. Hadi Hussein Abid Ali and the Dean of Sharia. Dr. Iravani gave a lecture to the faculty, professors, and students. The lecture given by Dr. Iravani was centered on the need of dialogue amongst not just within the different groups within Iraq but the need of dialogue that extends to the West that would foster understanding between the Muslim world and West. Dr. Iravani told the audience at Kufa University about his own experience on how concrete dialogue can bring understanding not only to people with different faiths but to communities and cultures that will enable unity between the Muslim world and the West.
Dr. Iravani met with Dr. Hassan Nadhem, Director of UNESCO Chair for the Development of Interreligious Dialogue Studies in the Islamic World at the University of Kufa. Dr. Iravani and Dr. Nadhem discussed different ways that the Center for the Study of Islam and the Middle East (CSIME) and University of Kufa can cooperate to further understanding between the West and the Middle East. The two men proposed setting a program where students and scholars from Kufa can come to the United States through CSIME to study and conduct research at American institutions for number weeks.
During the meeting with the Grand Ayatollahs, Dr. Iravani gave them a detailed report about the lives of the Shiite Muslims living in the United States. Dr. Iravani urged the Grand Ayatollahs to use more and new tactics to curtail the new generation of Muslims in the West. Dr. Iravani urged the Grand Ayatollahs not to go back to the old ways but to modernize with the changing world to get the attention of young Muslims around the globe.
Dr. Iravani also met with the head of the Supreme Council of Iraq, the Deputy of the Iraqi government, and the head of the Islamic Dawa Party, which currently holds power in Iraq. Dr. Iravani visited University of Baghdad where he met with the Dean of Humanities and Sciences. Dr. Iravani lectured at the University of Baghdad where he spoke and shared his own personal journey that led him from Iran to the United States. The visit at the University of Baghdad was also an opportunity to explore partnership and cooperation between the University and CSIME. Before concluding his trip to Iraq, Dr. Iravani visited the Syriac Orthodox Church in Baghdad where he celebrated with the fathers and was able to spend the evening with refugees sheltered there from the affliction of war. Dr. Iravani last stop on his visit to Iraq was the Mutanabbi Street, a historic center of Baghdad bookselling filled with bookstores and outdoor bookstalls. Named after the 10th century classical Iraqi poet Al-Mutanabbi, Mutanabbi Street is well established for bookselling and has often been referred to as the heart and soul of the Baghdad literacy and intellectual community.
Dr. Ahmad Iravani, executive director of the Center for the Study of Islam and the Middle East (CSIME) attended the World Against Violence and Extremism (WAVE) conference in Tehran, Iran on December 9th and 10th of 2014. WAVE conference was an idea proposed by Iranian president Hassan Rouhani at the 68th annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2013 to combat violence and extremism. At the core of the WAVE initiative, the goal and mission is to contribute toward resolving some of the most outstanding problems of the 21st century caused by acts of violence and extremism, especially the various brutal acts of violence carried out in the name of religion in the Muslim world, which have spread terror and fear in the Middle East.
Dr. Iravani was invited to attend the WAVE conference by the foreign ministry of the Republic of Iran. At the conference, Dr. Iravani lectured on the ideas of fighting, combating, and facing extremism. Dr. Iravani told the audience in attendance that the leaders of this terror groups might be puppets doing the bids of others or may actually have their own agendas and elect to misuse religion to accommodate and further their agenda. Dr. Iravani also went on to tell the audience that many of the followers of these extremist and terrorist groups are in many ways brainwashed in their beliefs.
Dr. Iravani told the audience that extremist interpretations and narratives of Islam, though still representing a small minority of the faithful, cannot be written off as simply “un-Islamic”. Dr. Iravani said it is this reading of Islam that strikes a chord with a disillusioned, angry, alienated but often educated cohort of Muslim youth. To deal with rise of radicalism and extremism, Dr. Iravani laid two options of either expelling those using religion to further their extremist agenda from Islam or accept that they are indeed Muslims who have gone astray from the teachings of the prophet. Dr. Iravani believes that the latter is the right way to counter extremism. He believes that in order to combat the rise of extremism and radicalism in the Arab world, its vital to acknowledge that these extremist groups are indeed Muslims who have perverted Islam to benefit their agendas.
Dr. Iravani explained that the long-term way to combat radicalism and extremism is by reaching out to Muslim communities and families as partners, not as targets; as human beings and agencies, not as suspects. By doing this, Dr. Iravani believes the outreach should help families and communities hear authentic narratives of Islam, which promote peace, mercy, and the real practice of Prophet Muhammad. Dr. Iravani also proposed bringing together the highest authorities of Islam from different schools to articulate the competing narrative that is both authentic and practiced by the vast majority of Muslims. Dr. Iravani believes that social services of religious institutions and life styles of community leaders can play a vital role in shaping youth’s perception and behavior. The last proposal that Dr. Iravani told the audience is to tackle the structural problem of economic exclusion, which does not lend itself to one-size-fits-all solutions and require government and private-sector coordination and contribution.
While in Tehran, Dr. Iravani met with Iranian political, business and religious leaders to discuss ways to improve dialogue between Iran and the west, specifically Iranian institutions and American institutions. Dr. Iravani met with former Iranian president Ali Khamenei, chief justice of Iran, Jewish members of parliament and clerical leaders from Sunni and Shiite groups. The meeting was very substantive as Dr. Iravani discussed with clerics the role of dialogue and the work that CSIME is doing. The theme during the meeting was one of improving understanding between the West and the Muslim world through dialogues among the religious leaders from both sides of the world. The Tehran visit concluded with Dr. Iravani meeting with the Iranian foreign minister Dr. Javad Zarif and the former prime minister of Norway Dr. Bondeveick.
In November of 2014, after his Dubai trip at the World Economic Forum Summit on Global Agenda, Dr. Iravani visited Iran and attended a conference hosted by Islamic Culture and Relations Organization (ICRO). ICRO aims to create enduring partnership between Iran and other cultures by creating opportunities to connect with the latest skills, ideas and experience from Iran. ICRO seeks to promote mutual understanding among peoples of different cultures, to preserve and promote cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible, and to enhance the cultural activities and creativity. The ICRO conference was held to celebrate 20 years of dialogue, partnership, and cooperation between the Shiite Muslims and the Catholic Church in Iran. The conference was hosted and led by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran. Cardinal Tauran is the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and he is also in charge of the Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims. In 2010, Dr. Iravani and Cardinal Tauran participated in the Christian-Muslim Summit held in Rome vowing to walk hand in hand in an effort to promote peace. During the ICRO conference, Dr. Iravani was able to conduct meetings with religious and political leaders emphasizing the need for dialogue that will give birth to more understanding and unity between people of different beliefs and faiths.
Dr. Wolfgang Brandstetter, Federal Minister of Justice of the Republic of Austria, spoke at the Columbus School of Law on September 29 about Human Trafficking.
The event was sponsored by The Interdisciplinary Program on Law and Religion, Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies and The Center for the Study of Islam and the Middle East.
By invitation of the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California (ICCNC) which is an independent, non-profit, community based organization, as well as through Mr. Mohammad Mohanna’s and Dr. Alireza Mahmoudieh’s (two members of CSIME Board of Directors and Advisors) countless efforts, collaboration and support, Dr. Noori traveled to California from July 9 – 26.
In this trip Dr. Noori gave three religious lectures on July 10 – 12 at the ICCNC as well a talk on July 12th at the interfaith gathering on celebration of Ramadan. He emphasized on three points that interfaith cooperation should focused on, in the contemporary world: confronting religious extremism, human rights, especially children, the future of the environment.
ON Monday 14 July he had a meeting for the feasibility of developing cooperation between the CSIME and UC Davis. Presents at the meeting were:
– Dr. Bob Kerr – Assistant Vice Provost of International Affairs, UC Davis
– Dr. James Thorne – Research Scientist at Information Center for the Environment, UC Davis
– Professor Arnold Bloom – Professor of Climate Change, UC Davis
– Professor Warren Pickett – Professor of Physics, UC Davis and faculty contact at Sharif University (recently returned from Iran)
– Dr. Noori – Research Director, CSIME
– Mr. Moe Mohanna – President of West Coast, CSIMEM
– Nikky Mohanna – Special Projects Manager, CSIME
On Monday 14 July he had another meeting at UC Davis focused on environmental issues and the possibility of cooperation in exchanging UC Davis experiences and knowledge about the ways to deal with the environment crisis to religious leaders and institutions in the Middle East.
Presents at the meeting were:
– Dr. Bob Kerr – Assistant Vice Provost of International Affairs, UC Davis
– Professor Warren Pickett – Professor of Physics, UC Davis and faculty contact at Sharif University
– Professor Richard Frank – Director of California Environmental Law & Policy Center, UC Davis School of Law, and Professor of Environmental Practice
– Dr. Noori – Research Director, CSIME
– Mr. Moe Mohanna – President of West Coast, CSIME
– Nikky Mohanna – Special Projects Manager, CSIME
Another meeting was held on July 23 with a number of Iranian activist and friend CSIME in Sacramento and surrounding towns to give them a report on CSIME activities and future plans.
Other meeting was on 24 July with Professor Brian K. Landsberg in his office at Mc-George School of Law, University of the Pacific. In this visit which was accompanied by Mr. Mohanna, Dr. Noori presented a report of CSIME activities and programs. Due to the scope of work and expertise of Prof. Landsberg they talked about a conference/workshop to exchange experiences among Middle Eastern and Western Judges, as well as workshops to assist Middle Eastern Law schools to update their law education and expand their clinical activities. Prof. Landsberg welcomed the idea of holding these programs and expressed their interest to cooperate.
Dr. Noori during his stay in the Sacramento and Davis gave 10 religious lectures in three Islamic centers.
What is the relationship between diplomacy and religion in the Middle East? What are the scope and limits for cooperation between clerics and diplomats? How can religion and diplomacy work together on specific problems such as Iran, Syria, Iraq, and Israeli-Palestinian issues? Why have Secretaries of State Clinton and Kerry given new emphasis to the role of religion in diplomacy, especially in the Middle East? These were among the questions that were addressed by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, and Ayatollah Dr. Ahmad Iravani, President and Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Islam and the Middle East (CSIME), and Fellow at the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies, Catholic University in a conversation moderated by MEI Scholar and retired Foreign Service officer Allen Keiswetter. The event drew a significant media presence and a crowd of over 80 people. The podcast and video from the event are available on the Middle East Institute website. What is the relationship between diplomacy and religion in the Middle East? What are the scope and limits for cooperation between clerics and diplomats? How can religion and diplomacy work together on specific problems such as Iran, Syria, Iraq, and Israeli-Palestinian issues? Why have Secretaries of State Clinton and Kerry given new emphasis to the role of religion in diplomacy, especially in the Middle East? These were among the questions that were addressed by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, and Ayatollah Dr. Ahmad Iravani, President and Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Islam and the Middle East (CSIME), and Fellow at the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies, Catholic University in a conversation moderated by MEI Scholar and retired Foreign Service officer Allen Keiswetter. The event drew a significant media presence and a crowd of over 80 people. The podcast and video from the event are available on the Middle East Institute website.
From May 23 to June 1, 2014, CSIME led an extraordinary delegation of top religious leaders in the United States to Iran. Delegates included Pastor Dr. Joel Hunter, Obama’s Spiritual Adviser, Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, President of the Skinner Leadership Institute, Dr. Roy Medley, General Secretary of the American Baptist Churches USA, Dr. Bob Roberts, founding Senior Pastor of NorthWood Church, the megachurch in Dallas, Texas, Dr. Sayyid Syeed, the National Director of the Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances for the Islamic Society of North America, Dr. James Kowalski, Dean of the Cathedral of Saint John in New York and Dr. Robert Destro, Law Professor and Founding Director of the Interdisciplinary Program in Law and Religion at the Catholic University of America, and Dr. Ahmad Iravani the President of CSIME. This delegation of Abrahamic faith leaders traveled to Tehran, Esfahan and the holy city of Qom to engage in dialogue with top religious leaders in Iran and discuss matters of mutual interest. On May 25, 2014, the delegation attended the “World Free from Violence and Extremism from the Perspective of Abrahamic Religions” Conference held at the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization in Tehran. This conference paved the way for open dialogue between Iranian religious thinkers and parliamentary leaders and U.S. religious leaders. This unprecedented dialogue which was focused on religious tolerance fostered new perspectives and brought the Abrahamic faiths together on common ground. “We found a genuine openness to American ideas and approaches, and a common desire to build a faith-based path to peace,” delegate Dr. Bob Roberts stated. On the evening of May 27, 2014, Mohammad Mohanna, CSIME President of the West Coast, hosted a dinner for the delegates in Tehran. The head of the budget committee of the Parliament in Iran, Ayatollah Mesbahi-Moghaddam was a special speaker and made remarks on the importance of increasing dialogue between the American and Iranian people. Dr. Ayatollahi, the former representative of Iran to the International Atomic Energy Agency, was also present and commented on the progress we have made between the US and Iran, and was optimistic about the future of our relations. Throughout the delegation, CSIME held several positive meetings with top Iranian officials, Parliamentary leaders, and President Rouhani’s Office. The outcome of these exchanges provided optimism for peaceful relations and has paved the way for more Abrahamic dialogues and building of trust between our two nations.
On May 15, 2014, Mr. Mohammad Mohanna, President of CSIME West Coast Division, sponsored the annual Power of One event for the Interfaith Council of Greater Sacramento. At the event, interfaith groups across Northern California came together to recognize the power of interfaith dialogue and understanding. Pastor Rick Cole of the Capital Christian Center was honored at the event for his work in organizing a Winter Sanctuary Staging Ground at facilities donated by Mohanna, for the homeless guests at the Loaves and Fishes Campus in Sacramento. In addition, Women’s Empowerment, a non-profit co-founded by Mohanna, was honored at the event and praised for its work in helping homeless women get the necessary job training and skills to end the vicious cycle of homelessness. The Power of One event recognized the importance of bringing interfaith leaders of various backgrounds together to advocate for sustainable solutions for the less fortunate.
CSIME organized and hosted a delegation of top Iranian law students from Shahid Beheshti University to attend the Philip C. Jessup Moot Court Competition, the world’s largest moot court in International Law, in Washington DC from April 6-12, 2014. The team competed amongst top law students from countries all around the world including Russia, Singapore, Puerto Rico and the Baltic Region. CSIME arranged various meetings for these top students in Washington DC and New York, including a visit to the United Nations. During this trip, CSIME provided opportunities for the law students to familiarize themselves with the US legal system and explore international opportunities and career prospects. The success of this delegation paves the way for future top law students of Iran to engage in further international competitions and establish long-lasting connections with colleagues from around the world. CSIME is dedicated to ensuring opportunities for top Iranian students to travel to the U.S. and engage in dialogue with their peers in fields of interest, building crucial relationships between the future leaders of Iran and the U.S.
Dr. Iravani Brings Message of Faith at National Prayer Breakfast WASHINGTON — CSIME executive director Ayatollah Iravani told participants at the 2014 National Prayer Breakfast that faith and spirituality is important to international peace and should be a central tenet of diplomacy. The National Prayer Breakfast an annual event held in Washington DC on the first Thursday of February, he told attendees, is an opportunity to “help overcome misconceptions and prejudice about other religions and understand that we are all children of God.” This year the event was hosted by the bipartisan duo of Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and Janice Hahn (D-CA). Ayatollah Iravani emphasized throughout the event the universality of faith and noted the various ways in which people can unite through interfaith endeavors. Moreover, Ayatollah Iravani explained how he had experienced faith and its power throughout his lifetime and stressed how dialogue among those different religions can strengthen peace and tolerance to the world. Ayatollah Iravani also emphasized how the opinions of religious leaders should play a role in diplomacy in the United States and called on government officials to take their opinions into consideration in policy making. He suggested it was clear that the opinions of religious leaders in the United States have been neglected in the past and policy makers need to communicate more often with religious leaders. He himself, the executive director, met with various elected officials and high level representatives as an imperative for the United States to promote further communication with religious leaders.
CSIME’s Dr. Iravani attends World Economic Forum Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, 23 January 2014- The Center for the Study of Islam and the Middle East founder and executive director, Dr. Ahmad Iravani, delivered a message of engagement, cooperation, friendship and the importance of interfaith endeavors to the participants at the Davos World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2014. The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2014 took place from January 22 to 25, with the theme of “The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business.” The annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, is the place the most powerful and influential people meet: nearly 50 heads of state, thousands of CEOs, members of international organizations, non-governmental organization leaders and also importantly religious leaders. Many of the sessions are televised or streamed online; however majority of the sessions take place under of the record Chathman House rules- reporters are free to quote from the discussion, however are not allowed to say who made which statement. Power Sharing and Political Islam Iravani participated in the off-the-record session, “Power Sharing and Political Islam: How is political Islam dealing with the backlash it is suffering in the Arab world?” This panel discussion included, Dr. Gilbert Lacroix, the vice president of CA Technologies, Dr. Aref A. Naye, Islamic scholar and the Libyan Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. , Dr. Tasneem A. Siddiqui, the Chairman of Saiban, Dr. Mohamed Ashmawey, Chief Executive Office of Islamic Relief Worldwide and Dr. Ghassan Salamé, Dean of the Paris School of International Affairs. Dr. Iravani was asked to discuss Iran’s perspective on political Islam as it has evolved in the past three years in the Arab world. Interfaith Efforts and Beyond According to WEF, this year was the first time a large delegation of religious leaders were invited to discuss how ethics and morality can guide the globalization process, among other topics as well. The invitation to Dr. Iravani and other international religious leaders in this year’s World Economic Forum reflects the increasing recognition of how religion plays a vital role in the global agenda. The potential for further interfaith endeavors was explored when Dr. Iravani with other religious leaders in attendance including, Professor Michael Czerny S.J. of Georgetown University, Cardinal John O. Onaiyekan of the Cardinal and Roman Catholic Archbishop of Nigeria and Cardinal Peter Turkson of the Roman Catholic Church of Ghana/ Dr. Iravani sat down with Cardinal Turkson and Cardinal Onaiyekan to discuss how Islam and Christianity, in particular Shiites and Catholics, can bring peace to conflict areas and for further International interfaith endeavors. After the discussion, Cardinal Onaiyekan invited Ayatollah Iravani to take place in an interfaith conference between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria. Indonesia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Marty Natalegawa, impressed with Dr. Iravani’s interfaith efforts, also invited him to visit Indonesia in order to explore opportunities to facilitate interfaith dialogue and cooperation between religious leaders and intellectuals in the United States and Indonesia. “We hope the path of international interfaith dialogue and cooperation will continue, ensuring the removal of all existing issues between faiths. CSIME has so far done its best in that regard and will continue to do so,” Iravani told reporters in Davos. Dr. Iravani also expressed how the WEF conference was a great opportunity to not only meet with religious and business leaders but also past and present politicians. These include but are not limited to: President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Dr. Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Dr. Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Chief of Staff of the President of Iran, Dr. Mohammad Nahavandian, Dr. Nabil Fahmy, Foreign Minister of Egypt, Former United Nations Secretary-General Honorable Kofi Anan and Lady Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for the European Union. Dr. Iravani also met with Sweden’s Foreign Minister, Honorable Carl Bildt, Norway’s Foreign Honorable Børge Brende, and Jordan’s Foreign Minister Honorable Nasser Judeh. When asked about Iran’s role in the region and the current conflict in Syria, Dr. Iravani emphasized how throughout all of his talks and meetings with representatives and officials he encouraged everyone to continue reaching out to Iran for further cooperation based on mutual respect concerning matters in the region. He went on to also illustrate how the conflict in Syria and broader conflicts in the Middle East will only be resolved once Iran and Saudi Arabia are able to settle their differences and work towards stabilization together. Before his flight to Washington DC, Iravani also expressed to the reporters how he is thankful for the World Economic Forum for recognizing the important role religion and religious leaders play in the world and that he hopes that the relationships fostered in Davos would launch a number of interfaith initiatives across the globe.
CSIME Plays Host to Interfaith Dialogue With Ayatollah Sayed Ali al-Hakim Interfaith dialogue between Abrahamic Faiths ‘can overcome negative misconceptions of Islam in the West,’ said Ayatollah Sayad Ali el- Hakim of Iraq. WASHINGTON- CSIME hosted an annual seminar at Catholic University with renowned professor and writer, Ayatollah Sayed Ali el-Hakim where he gave a lecture discussing the role of human rights in Islam. “Islam protects man’s right to believe or not to believe and many verses of the Quran proves this,” said Ayatollah Sayad Ali el-Hakim, who has been the General Secretary of the Imam al-Hakim Foundation since its establishment in 2008. He explained that “the Medina Constitution given by the Prophet Muhammad established a free state for everyone including, Muslims, Jews and pagans.” Held January 31 at the Columbus School of Law at Catholic University along with the efforts of Professor Ahmad Iravani and Professor Robert A. Destro, the seminar on human rights in Islam along with others are held in hopes of opening further doors for interfaith dialogue between Abrahamic faiths. It included in depth discussions, Q&A with Ayatollah al-Hakim, and interfaith dialogue. The seminar drew law students studying at Catholic University and young adults of the Catholic and Muslim religions. Emphasizing the need for deeper interfaith dialogue among Abrahamic faiths, participants discussed how to foster cooperation and understanding between followers of these religions. Ayatollah Ali al-Hakim, who is now based out of Lebanon, explained how Imam Ali, whom Shiites believe is the first rightful successor to the Prophet Muhammad, said it best when he proclaimed ‘mankind is either your brother in faith, or your equal in humanity.’ Since the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates, Muslims continue to have tremendous issues with political groups or governments who commit unjust crimes in the name of Islam, he said. These sins and crimes, however, have never had anything to do with real Islam and unfortunately have had a negative impact on Western perception of Islam. “Many who came after the Prophet Muhammad, gone against what made him sacred and have confiscated Islam themselves for political and personal reasons, the reality of this is that this has resulted in being a very dangerous thing for Muslims ,” Ayatollah Ali al-Hakim said.
Highlights of Ayatollah Iravani’s trip to Iraq CSIME executive director, Ahmad Iravani, visited Iraq from January 14-22 with goals of advancing CSIME mission and vision by expanding ties and fostering future joint interfaith endeavors. While in Iraq, Iravani traveled to Baghdad, Najaf and Karbala to discuss mutual agendas and exchange views with 18 prominent religious and political leaders. In the first phase of the trip while visiting Baghdad, Ayatollah Iravani met with H.E. Sayyid Ammar al-Hakim, the president of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, one of the largest political parties in the country. H.E. Al-Hakim has had a positive impact throughout the Islamic world in cultural, social and political fields for his faith in interfaith dialogue, acceptance of others and continuous opposition to violence and extremism. Afterwards a discussion was scheduled with Sheikh Dr. Human Hamoudi, one of the most important figures in Iraqi politics today. Sheikh Hamoudi is a member of the Council of Representatives of Iraq representing the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA). Sheikh Hamoudi is second in command of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council . Third on the agenda was meeting with the head of Iraq’s Shia Endowment, Sayyid Saleh Al-Heidari. Before his departure for Najaf and Karbala, Ayatollah Iravani met with Dr. Adil Abdul-Mahdi al-Muntajiki a politician, economist, and one of the Vice Presidents of Iraq from 2005 to 2011. He was formerly the Finance Minister in the Interim government. In the second phase of the trip Ayatollah Iravani visited Najaf, the holiest city in Shi’ite Islam and the center of political power in Iraq, and also Karbala, the second holiest city in Shi’ite Islam. While in Najaf, Ayatollah Iravani met with Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Sa’id al-Tabataba’I al-Hakim. Grand Ayatollah al-Hakim is one of the five members of the Hawza of Najaf and the second most senior Shiite cleric after Ayatollah al-Sistani. Dr. Iravani discussed issues facing the Muslim Community in the United States, in particular the Shi’ite community, and what steps need to be taken for greater mutual cooperation and dialogue. Next, Sheikh Iravani met with Secretariats-General of the Imam Hussein and El-Abbas holy shrines, Sayyid Ahmed El-Safi. In Ayatollah Iravani’s honor, Sayyid Hossein al-Hakim, along with invited top scholars from the Howzeh Ilmiyya Najaf (the seminary traditional Islamic school of higher learning in Najaf) hosted a tribute dinner. They thanked Ayatollah Iravani for his international interfaith endeavors and dedication to higher education and hoped that greater cooperation be established in the future. From there Ayatollah Iravani met with Ayatollah Barh ol-Oloom, a distinguished scholar, politician and the current president of the higher institution in Kufa. Through this trip, Ayatollah Iravani believes CSIME’s relations with Iraqi partners and institutions entered a new phase and hopes this trend continues. CSIME hopes Ayatollah Iravani’s dialogue with prominent Iraqi leaders will serve as a positive example for further future dialogue throughout the region.