Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Beginning to understand Iraq (and the Middle East)
When internal fighting and killing first started in Iraq around two years ago I was very distressed and completely confused. The US occupation is illegal, unjust, and inhuman; that's an easy one to figure out. But, what do I say about the "sectarian violence"? Are Muslims really killing each other? Who do I protest against? Will I do more harm than good by speaking against one political party or another?
Since then the chaos has spread to other parts of the region, and has gained more news and media coverage. According to mainstream American media, all the problems in the Middle East seem to boil down to one thing: the Sunni-Shia struggle.
I am still not entirely clear about the situation in Iraq; I don't think anyone can be given the limited and distorted media coverage. Still, there is one thing I know for a fact: the so-called Sunni-Shia sectarian violence only started after the US-led occupation. Iraqis had peacefully coexisted for decades until they were "shocked and awed".
No, I am not in denial. There are definitely ignorant, misled Sunnis and Shias who are perpetrating the daily massacres against innocent Iraqi civilians. However, I refuse to believe that all Iraqi Shias are carrying out an Iranian plot to take over Iraq, or that all Iraqi Sunnis want to avenge Saddam's death by killing as many Shias as possible.
As for speaking out against regional political parties and figures, I will strongly condemn any party that chooses to work closely with foreign powers (US,UK,Israel France,...), against the interest of its own people. If that happens to be "Shia" groups in Iraq and "Sunni" parties in Lebanon then so be it. I trust that people will be mature enough to realize that my political opinions are based on political stances, not religious ones.
In the past week or so, I have come across several excellent articles that offer interesting analyses of the situation in Iraq and the Middle East in general (links and excerpts below). I think they are a must-read for anyone looking to truly understand the situation in the Middle East. These articles all make the point that there is so much more to the situation than Sunnis and Shias.
As far as Muslims go, we cannot afford to be ignorant about the situation. We cannot sit back and watch as our enemies divide us.
Sunnis Will Not Be Persuaded That Iran Is Their Real Enemy
"Despite the US-Shia alliance that brought his rule to an end, sectarianism did not become serious until the US-led occupation replaced Saddam's regime with one based on quotas, a process destined to divide Iraq along sectarian and ethnic lines."
The Shia-Sunni Divide: Myths and Reality
"The consensus in both Sunni and Shia circles appears to be that attempts to emphasise Sunni- Shia rivalries are intended to deflect attention from both the US occupation of Iraq and continuing Israeli aggression. That the US is working to fuel such tensions is almost an article of faith for Muslims on both sides. In its attempt to create an anti-Iran alliance, they say, the US is resorting to a strategy which aims to raise the spectre of sectarianism across the Muslim world."
How Easy It Is To Put Hatred on A Map
"Our guilt in this sectarian game is obvious. We want to divide the "other", "them", our potential enemies, from each other, while we - we civilised Westerners with our refined, unified, multicultural values - are unassailable."
Baghdad New Alliance
"Bush’s new strategy can be described as a policy of escalation and rejection of conceding failure. In addition, it is a plan to take revenge on Baghdad that deprived him from achieving the long-promised victory. By allocating 17,000 additional troops to Baghdad – while knowing that there are no clearly-defined fighting fronts – Bush in fact seeks to cause the biggest amount of damage to its people and buildings."