Posted by Wordsmith on 2 August, 2008 at 7:52 pm. 2 comments already!

I added this in the comments section of an earlier post (please check out the update), but felt it important enough as to merit its own posting, and exposure to a wider audience.

CJ writes:

This is commercial being shown on Iraqi television – you know, the kind of television that was banned under Saddam Hussein. For me, this makes what I and my fellow Soldiers did totally worth it.


“We are Shias and Sunnis
Who gathers us is God and Mohammed
No Sunni No Shia
We have one goal
Stay together
God bless you all
Who separates us
is not from us”

I can only hope that the partisanship regarding the Iraq War does not get in the way of all Americans united in the desire to see Iraq succeed as a peaceful, stable, democratic nation.

Also, note the following study:

Aug. 2, 2007

Iraqi attitudes continue to shift toward secular values

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—The political values of Iraqis are increasingly secular and nationalistic, according to a series of surveys of nationally representative samples of the population from December 2004-March 2007.

Findings from a July 2007 survey are expected to be released before the end of the summer.

So far, the surveys show a decline in popular support for religious government in Iraq and an increase in support for secular political rule, said sociologist Mansoor Moaddel, who is affiliated with Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR).

“Iraqis have a strong sense of national identity that transcends religious and political lines,” Moaddel said. “The recent out-pouring of national pride at the Asian Cup victory of the Iraqi soccer team showed that this sense of national pride remains strong, despite all the sectarian strife and violence.”

In the March 2007 survey, 54 percent of Iraqis surveyed described themselves as “Iraqis, above all,” (as opposed to “Muslims, above all” or “Arabs, above all”) compared with just 28 percent who described themselves that way in April 2006. Three-quarters of Iraqis living in Baghdad said they thought of themselves in terms of their national identity, as Iraqis above all.

“This is a much higher proportion than we found in other Middle Eastern capitals,” said Moaddel, adding that such high levels of national identity may counteract tendencies to split the nation based on sectarian differences.

The surveys conducted in December 2004 and April 2006 were supported by grants from the National Science Foundation to U-M political scientists Ronald Inglehart and Mark Tessler. Moaddel collaborated on those surveys, then added some of the same questions to an October 2006 survey of 7,730 Iraqis supervised by the Multinational Forces Assessment Effects Group. In March 2007, Moaddel collaborated with Iraqi social scientist Munqith Daghir, adding the same questions to another survey of 7,411 Iraqis. The surveys were conducted by a private Iraqi research group headed by Daghir, the Independent Institute for Administration and Civil Society Studies.

The proportion of Shi’s, Sunnis and Kurds interviewed in each of the surveys was roughly representative of their presence in the population, according to Moaddel.

Overall, only 18 percent of those surveyed in October 2006 thought that having an Islamic government where religious authorities have absolute power is “very good,” compared with 26 percent surveyed in December 2004.

About a third of those surveyed in March 2007 strongly agreed that Iraq would be a better place if religion and politics were separated, compared with 24 percent in December 2004.

Additionally, Moaddel found a significant increase from April 2006 to October 2006 in the percent of Iraqis who gave six religious political parties a very unfavorable rating.

“The escalating violence in Iraq gives a bleak impression of that country’s future,” Moaddel said. “Sectarian conflict seems to be increasing on a daily basis, with militias massacring hundreds of Sunnis and Shi’is solely on the basis of their religious identities.

“Yet it would be a mistake to think that this bloodlust represents widespread sentiment among Iraqis as a whole. While neither American nor Iraqi security officials have yet found a way to tame the militias, the Iraqi public is increasingly drawn toward a vision of a democratic, non-sectarian government for the country.”

And if that doesn’t give you optimistic hope, how about this (from March of 2006, a month after the bombing of the Al-Askari Mosque):

Iraqi marriages defy civil war spectre

Despite widespread speculation at home and abroad that Iraq is on the verge of civil war, couples from different backgrounds have been defying the theory by marriage.

Young men and women – as was the case before the US-led invasion three years ago – from different ethnic, religious and sectarian backgrounds still flock to the civil courts every morning for marriage contracts.

Sahira Abd al-Karim, a civil lawyer in Baghdad, confirmed to that Iraqis from different backgrounds are still marrying each other.

“Sectarianism is something shameful among Iraqis, especially the middle class,” she said. “As a lawyer in the civil courts in Baghdad I have seen Sunni marrying Shia, Arab marrying a Kurd.

“I myself am a Sunni Arab but my brother has been married to his Shia Arab wife for more than 40 years, and their eldest son married a Turkmen girl. I really cannot see how these people [Iraqis factions] would fight each other.”

A civil judge in Baghdad who preferred not to reveal his identity told that the rate of mixed background marriages has declined slightly, as has marriage in general.

Slight decline

“Definitely the number of mixed marriages has declined recently, but we have to take into consideration that marriage cases in general have fallen due to deteriorated security situation and immigration. People are leaving Iraq looking for safety,” he said.

The judge agreed with Sahira that urban Iraqis regard sectarianism as shameful.

“Families of young couples usually get embarrassed when I ask them do they want the marriage to be finalised according to Sunni or Shia Islamic Sharia? They do not want to be labelled as sectarians, and you see each family encourages the other to tell the judge to finalise the marriage according to its sect.”
Marwan Muhammad, 26, and Zainab Hussein, 25, were declared husband and wife by the civil judge in al-Karkh Civil Court in Baghdad this month.

Marwan, a Sunni Arab, and Zainab, a Shia Arab, fell in love shortly after they started their university studies four years ago.

Security fears

“Due to the current situation in Iraq, I and Zainab agreed to live in a room at my parents’ house. My family promised Zainab’s family to treat her like a dear daughter,” Marwan said.

Despite their happiness, the couple were disappointed not to have been able to had celebrate their wedding properly because of the security situation.

“Curfew starts at eight in the evening, and that would not allow us to hold a proper wedding party,” Marwan said.

Iraqi wedding parties usually kick off early in the evening, with a band singing until dinner time. Singing and dancing continues after dinner until late at night and sometimes until dawn, but due to ongoing partial curfew people tend to end their weddings early evening.

Ban Haddad, 35, a neighbour, said: “We missed the scene of dozens of nicely decorated cars touring the streets of Baghdad after midnight to celebrate a newly married couple.”

Haddad, a Shia Arab, graduated from Baghdad University in 1991 and in 1995 she married a Sunni Arab man.

“Believe it or not the Sunni and Shia thing is mentioned in our house for sake of humour, you know like I joke with my husband and tell him that Sunni are not good husbands or they are stingy … Things like that just to laugh, I do not know how they introduced sectarianism to all aspects of life, the situation is awful now,” she said.

Tribal factors

Some Iraqis say the tribal factor is crucial in pushing away the danger of civil. All Arab countries are tribal societies which value the blood bond more than sect.

Tribal leaders dismiss the possibility of civil war between ordinary Iraqis, saying they all belong to tribes that contain Sunni and Shia clans.

Shaikh Muhammad Ahmed al-Mislit, a senior tribal leader, ruled out the possibility of Iraqi clans fighting each other because of different sectarian belief. Al-Mislit belongs to the Arab tribe of al-Jobur which numbers about three million Iraqis and contains Sunni and Shia clans.

“Every member in my tribe sees other members as cousins; I cannot see myself or any one of my tribe fighting his own people and family for political or sectarian beliefs,” al-Mislit said.

“My evidence for that is both Shia and Sunni Jubor tribesmen go to the same tribal authority to judge between them, they do not go to Sunni or Shia clerics.”

Low-level civil war?

But some prominent Iraqis believe that the country has already slipped into a low-intensity civil war.
Iyad Allawi, the former prime minister, recently told the BBC: “We are losing each day an average 50 to 60 people throughout the country, if not more. If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is.”

Jalal Talabani , Iraq’s Kurdish president also said after the Samarra bombing last month that civil war was a threat, but he has since played this down.

“The Iraqi people cannot accept a civil war,”he said on Sunday. “We are passing through a difficult period right now, but the attachment of Iraqis to their country will prevent such a war.”

General George Casey, commander of US military forces in Iraq, also rejected the notion that a civil war was “imminent” or “inevitable” in an interview with Fox News, arguing that a new government would help ease sectarian tensions.

Apparently, Iraq has the highest percantage of Sunni/Shia mixed marriages in the Middle East.

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