Basra, Iraq - The billboard in Umm al-Broom Square was meant to advertise a cellphone service. Instead, it has become a message to those who dare to resist the rising tide of fundamentalist Islam in Iraq's second largest city.
The female model's face is now covered with black paint. Graffiti scrawled below reads, "No! No to unveiled women."
That message joins the chorus of ultraconservative voices and radical militias that are transforming this once liberal port city that boasted some of Iraq's most lively nightclubs into a bastion for hard-line Shiite Islamists since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
Now, as the British prepare to exit Basra Province altogether after pulling out from this provincial capital last week, they leave behind what has been described by many here as an emerging "Shiite Taliban state," a reference to Sunni extremists in Afghanistan.
The overthrow of Saddam Hussein did not usher in a golden era of freedom in Iraq. In fact, the opposite is the case. You might think this obvious, hardly worthy of a blog post at this point. But the happy talkers who defend the war put a positive spin on changes in Iraq and a substantial portion of the populace of the United States are deceived by the happy talkers. Hence obvious truths require boring repetition.
Iraq should be a cautionary tale. Overthrow a tyrant in an Arab country and secular society gets shrunken and forced underground.
The Muslims see a return to fundamentalism as a defense against the West.
"Ultimately, what we will see in Iraq is a conservative society, whether in the Shiite or Sunni areas. Sunnis, too, are going through a very difficult process that will result in the rise of conservatism and fundamentalism," says Ahmed Moussalli, a lecturer and expert on Islamic movements at the American University in Beirut. From the perspective of many, he says, "Iraq and other places [in the Arab world] are under attack ... by the West and there is a lot of return to religion in order to empower themselves to fight the 'infidels.' "
The invasion of Iraq was a mistake. The whole world isn't just like America in their views about freedom or about women or about the relationship between religion and state. Also, we have no vital interests to protect in Iraq. We have nothing to gain by staying there.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2007 September 17 09:57 PM Mideast Iraq Freedom Rights|