Sunday, February 19, 2006

Iraqi Sectarianism

Juan Cole links to this this New York Times story about the rise of sectarianism in Iraq following the fall of Saddam Hussein. A frequent point made on this blog, as well as in comments made at UW by Anthony Shadid, Peter Sluglett, and Cole himself, has been that Iraqis have generally not taken religion as their primary means of identification. However, the support networks which have emerged in the aftermath of the invasion have all been either implicitly religious, such as extended family, or explicitly so, such as the political parties and the associated militias who represent the real power in much of the country. As a result, people are identifying more strongly with their religious group in ways that are tearing the country apart at the most basic of levels. This is tragic, as despite what you may hear, there is no timeless enmity between Sunni and Shi'ite that has existed steadily throughout the Islamic world since the 7th century. These enmities form in certain times and places for specific reasons, and now Iraq is becoming one of those places.

(Crossposted to American Footprints.)


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