Wednesday, April 12, 2006

On religious identity in Iraq

All too often, Iraq’s major ethnic groups have been categorized into three distinct groups: Sunnis, Shias and Kurds. The only problem with these groupings, however, is that it obfuscates the intricate, nuanced, and complex reality of Iraq’s varied political landscape. Kurds for one are actually Sunni Muslims, but are the most supportive of the American presence in Iraq. Sunni Arabs on the other hand are the least supportive of America’s continued occupation of Iraq. What can we draw from the aforementioned elucidation? One thing: it’s not religion that is fueling the brutal insurgency — but communal and nationalist interest interests — more importantly, political interests.

Kurds as an ethnic group, and like all Iraqi citizens, suffered immensely under Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime. But they did not suffer for sharing the religious conviction of their ethnic cousins to the South and West of their autonomous region as Sunni Arabs made-off pretty well; they suffered because their nationalist aspirations did not conform to Hussein’s vision of Iraq. Islam cannot be blamed for spurring suicide bombings in the so-called Sunni triangle or attacks on Christian houses of worship. The “Lebanonization” of Iraq — or the continued cementation of the confessional system in Iraq — is turning the country from the secular democracy that Washington wishes to mold into a corrupt and despotic system where ID cards label an individual’s religious identity and denigrates the citizen’s spiritual tradition into a crude political identity.

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