2007 September 08 Saturday
Secularism Making Gains In Iraq?

Secularism is making some gains in Iraq but the Shiites are at best luke warm toward democracy.

ANN ARBOR, Mich.óWith the Bush Administration's progress report on Iraq due by Sept. 15, a new survey of nationally representative samples of the Iraqi population shows a continuation of two trends that give some reason for optimism about the future of that battle-scarred country: A continued shift away from political Islam among Sunnis and Kurds and a shift toward Iraqi nationalism among majority Shiites.

Those are the key findings from a July 2007 survey of 7,732 Iraqis, the fifth in a series, according to Mansoor Moaddel, a sociology professor at Eastern Michigan University and a research affiliate at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR).

What I wonder: Would the people in the Bush Administration reality distortion zone see these results as good news or bad news? After all, George W. Bush calls Islam a religion of peace (though it is really a religion of dominance and submission) and Bush seems to think beliefs based on faith are better regardless of which faith we are talking about. So while secularism is a force that would make Iraqis less likely to join religious militias and plant bombs Bush might prefer a more religious Iraq.

Slightly over half the Iraqis identify themselves as Shiites.

Moaddel has been working with U-M colleagues and a private Iraqi research group, the Independent Institute for Administration and Civil Society Studies, on a series of face-to-face surveys of nationally representative samples of the Iraqi population. Previous surveys were conducted in December 2004, April and October 2006, and March 2007.

In the July survey, 53 percent of those interviewed identified themselves as Shiites, 26 percent as Sunnis, 16 percent as Kurds and 5 percent as Muslims. Those who identified themselves as Muslim only declined to claim identity with a specific Islamic sect.

But get this: The majority Shiites are far less supportive of democracy than the Sunnis and Kurds. We have empowered the group in Iraq most opposed to democracy and most supportive of religious rule.

A majority of the Sunnis (54 percent) and Kurds (65 percent) said that it was "very important" to have a government that makes law according to the people's wishes, while a much smaller percentage of the Shiites (34 percent) thought so. On the other hand, only a minority of the Sunnis (14 percent) and the Kurds (18 percent) said that it was "very important" to have a government that implements only the Shari'a (Islamic law). This percentage was higher among the Shiites (27 percent). In the country as a whole, 71 percent of Iraqis said that it was "very important" or "somewhat important" for the government to make laws according to the people's wishes, compared with 51 percent who said that the same about implementing the shari'a only.

"The Kurds and the Sunnis dislike religious regimes," said Moaddel, "while the Shiites have a problem with secular politics."

It seems unfair to me to force the Kurds and Sunnis to live under Shia religious rule. But it also seems foolish and counterproductive for US interests to keep US troops in Iraq. But we'll have to wait for the next Presidential election for the US presence in Iraq to reach a conclusion.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2007 September 08 02:17 PM  MidEast Iraq Opinion Polls


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