Syed Saleem Shahzad reports that Islam is growing as a political force in Iraq.
He had hundreds of mosques built all over the Iraq. He established a fully-fledged Islamic university, called, of course, Saddam University, where only Islamic theology is taught and where Sunni Islam is promoted, while the beliefs of the majority Shi'ites are ignored. Dancing clubs were closed, casinos were shut down, prostitution was strictly banned and bars became a part of history (liquor shops are still allowed, but drinking at public places is forbidden). In a parliament of 250 members, 12 Islamic scholars were inducted.
Since the first Gulf War Saddam Hussein has been attempting to use Islam to bolster the support for his regime. His own Islamic university is teaching the writings of Sayyid Qutb (spelled Sayed Qutub in the article) and it is believed that there are underground cells of the Muslim Brotherhood operating throughout Iraq. This is bad news.
Once Saddam is gone and the US is in control of Iraq the most militant clerics and activists will have greater freedom with which to promote their ideas. Also, it seems likely that Saudi money will flow in to fund mosques and schools in Iraq that promote the Saudi Wahhabi sect of Islam.
The growth of militant Islam is not the only trend in Iraq that is going to make post-war occupation and reform of Iraqi society and politics difficult. Saddam Hussein has also been promoting the role of the tribes. See also the previous post Tribalism Is Alive And Well In Iraq. Islam combined with consanguinity in marriage further enhanced with the state promotion of the role of tribes makes Iraq far less tractable for would-be modernisers.
The coming American conquest of Iraq seems necessary in the battle against terrorism and against the spread of weapons of mass destruction. But the neoconservatives and liberals who think the aftermath of Saddam's removal will create the conditions that will allow the spread of liberal democracy into the Middle East are greatly underestimating the size of the task. Few participants in the public debate about spreading democracy in the Middle East show any recognition of the size of the obstacles in the task the United States is taking on to try to reshape Iraq into a liberal democracy.
Syed Saleem Shahzad also reports that many Sufi Muslims in Iraq greatly admire Osama Bin Laden.
However, this correspondent, after spending time in Iraq, has a different perspective: Osama bin Laden, the Salafi icon who theoretically should be branded an infidel by Sufis, is a living legend for the Sufis of Baghdad, and even further afield.
Why does this matter? There are those who argue that the West's conflict with Islam is a result of the influence of the Saudi Wahhabi (a.k.a. Salafi) sect on the rest of Islam. Even many Muslims see Salafi Islam as a intolerant, primitive and misguided. Stephen Schwartz, convert to Sufi Islam and author of The Two Faces of Islam: The House of Sa'ud from Tradition to Terror , argues that Wahhabi Islam is the largest cause of Islamic terrorism today.
Wahhabism has always attacked the traditional, spiritual Islam or Sufism that dominates Islam in the Balkans, Turkey, Central Asia, India, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Wahhabism and neo-Wahhabism (the latter being the doctrines of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and the Pakistani Islamists) are the main source of Islamic extremist violence in the world today. Wahhabism represents a distinct, ultraradical form of Islamism. Wahhabism is completely subsidized by the Saudi regime, using oil income.
Schwartz even says that Wahhabism is deeply unpopular in Iraq:
As to other Middle Eastern regions and states: Saddam Hussein has used Wahhabism to give his regime an Islamic cover, but Wahhabism is deeply unpopular in Iraq.
If Wahhabism is as unpopular in Iraq as Schwartz claims and if Sufi Islam is so inherently more tolerant then why is Osama Bin Laden so popular among Sufi Muslims in Baghdad?
Andrew G. Bostom takes issue with Schwartz's view and argues that the problems with Islam's attitude toward non-believers stretch back thru its entire history.
Sadly, both Schwartz's recent NRO contributions and his book reflect two persistent currents widespread among the Muslim intelligentsia: historical negationism and silent hypocrisy. To these two trends, Schwartz adds a third: misleading reductionism. If we would only neutralize "Wahhabism," he claims — presumably by some combination of military means, promoting the "true Islam," and perhaps having the world switch to a hydrogen-based fuel economy — all Islamic terror and injustice will disappear. But the reality is that, for nearly 1,400 years, across three continents, from Portugal to India, non-Muslims have experienced the horrors of the institutionalized jihad war ideology and its ugly corollary institution, dhimmitude.
Also see a previous post about Roger Scruton's book The West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat. In order to successfully transfer Iraq the culture of that country will have to change sufficiently to support what Scruton calls an Impersonal State. To create the conditions that make such a state possible requires changes that literally take decades or even centuries to accomplish. The transformation in outlook needed to make this possible is of a profound nature.
Update: For all posts on the problem of reconstruction and reformation of conquered countries see the Parapundit Reconstruction and Reformation archives.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2003 March 01 12:39 AM Reconstruction and Reformation|