NYT: Disgusted by sectarian violence, Iraqi youth shift towards secularism

posted at 12:15 pm on March 4, 2008 by Allahpundit

Abe Greenwald is exultant and supplies an apt quote from Martin Amis as an epitaph for the piece. It’s tremendous news but made me think of the Iranian mullahcracy vis-a-vis the Iranian population: Just because the people have soured on government by vicious, thieving fundamentalists doesn’t mean they won’t have a government by vicious, thieving fundamentalists. Iran’s right next door to speed the transition along with money and, ahem, goodwill, and Sadr’s hitting the books to emulate Khomeini. Step one — and again, it’s tremendous news — is Iraqis recoiling from rule by jihadists; step two is harnessing their disgust into some secularist outlet that’s willing to crack the heads of those jihadists when the time comes. That’s what the Iraqi Army and police are for, theoretically. Will they hold?

Enjoy this, though, or at least as much as one can any necessary, salutary political development that took so much violence to be born. You want hope in Iraq, you got it:

After almost five years of war, many young people in Iraq, exhausted by constant firsthand exposure to the violence of religious extremism, say they have grown disillusioned with religious leaders and skeptical of the faith that they preach…

The shift in Iraq runs counter to trends of rising religious practice among young people across much of the Middle East, where religion has replaced nationalism as a unifying ideology…

Such patterns, if lasting, could lead to a weakening of the political power of religious leaders in Iraq. In a nod to those changing tastes, political parties are dropping overt references to religion.

I could have quoted another 15 paragraphs, including the one about the woman who used to love Osama but now takes a more nuanced view after having been forced by fundies to wear the hijab, but I hate excerpting important articles like this since it tempts you not to read the whole thing. So read the whole thing, paying special attention to what voting along sectarian lines really means (see also Iraqpundit about that) and the mercenary motivations held by so many of the “pious.” An improving Iraqi economy will help solve that problem too by raising the cost of jihadi recruiting for Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the rest of the scum who are bankrolling it.


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Hmmm… abandoning a bandit code that masquerades as a religion in favor of no religion. I guess that’s a good thing.

Akzed on March 4, 2008 at 12:22 PM

Yea Secularism!

infidel2 on March 4, 2008 at 12:23 PM

Celebratory Hitchens piece incoming!

Hannibal Smith on March 4, 2008 at 12:23 PM

Is it anti religeon or anti islam ? Is a difference.

But Iran itself is under pressure because the Mullahs arent loved there either.

William Amos on March 4, 2008 at 12:24 PM

Then again, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot were secularists, so…

Akzed on March 4, 2008 at 12:24 PM

Excellent news.

amerpundit on March 4, 2008 at 12:25 PM

Then again, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot were secularists, so…

Akzed on March 4, 2008 at 12:24 PM

Why go so far? As i’ve already noted in the linkomments, the roots of Arab secularism are in the Fascist Baathist party. Assad and Saddam came from this same root.

Aristotle on March 4, 2008 at 12:29 PM

Oppression is perpetrated by people, if those people’s oppression is associated with Islam then thats going to be the instrument of rebellion and hopefully result in freedom.

Speakup on March 4, 2008 at 12:33 PM

“Why go so far”? It’s a continuum, from Hitchens to Stalin (as much as that might annoy Hitchens and, if it does, good, I hope he marks his laundry if he sees this). Secularism provides no basis for not acting like a jihadi.

Akzed on March 4, 2008 at 12:33 PM

I hear Xbox is the RAGE in Iraq. Beats going to mosque.

jimbo2008 on March 4, 2008 at 12:34 PM

Not to worry. They can always move to Europe, Canada, or the US and get Islamified, and demand foot toilets in airports and burkinis at the all-female(non-Jewish) Harvard pool

JiangxiDad on March 4, 2008 at 12:35 PM

Then again, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot were secularists, so…

Akzed on March 4, 2008 at 12:24 PM

It’s a process. History proves this again and again. If they go the route of secular extremism, they will pass through that to emerge in an even better place. Again. Baby steps.

shibumiglass on March 4, 2008 at 12:38 PM

Most Muslims that reject their religion opt for atheism, like Hirsi Ali

oldguy on March 4, 2008 at 12:42 PM

Actually, reports from Africa indicate that Islam is losing converts to Christ big time, rather than to secularism. Maybe disenchanted Muslims in Iraq will wonder what moves our troops to administer first aid to AQ wounded, and ponder the source of such compassion.

Akzed on March 4, 2008 at 12:45 PM

Maybe there’s hope after all but I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t hold my breath.

TooTall on March 4, 2008 at 12:47 PM

Big changes need to happen before a Christian presence can emerge in Iraq. Too many cultural inhibitions and too many fundis that will enforce Shiria. Here in the States, many Iraqi Christian refugees are now being settled here due to their intense persecution in Iraq. I’ve talked to a few, and the persecution is intense. eg, forced to pay the jizya.

oldguy on March 4, 2008 at 12:52 PM

Thank allah!

SouthernGent on March 4, 2008 at 12:54 PM

Islam needs its own version of the Enlightenment.

Frozen Tex on March 4, 2008 at 1:05 PM

Don’t expect Iraqis to convert en masse to Christianity. After being in a dogmatic religion that wreaked, and still wreaks havoc on their fellow countrymen and women, it’s understandable that young Iraqis will stay away from any religion.

mram on March 4, 2008 at 1:08 PM

While this is good-ish news, the touting of it may not be. This gives more ammo to those that want to portray our intervention in Iraq as a “war against Islam”.
What is true and what is expedient are two very different things here. There are a lot of things that we want done but they should be done quietly and I expect the NYT took this into consideration when they decided to run this story.

TBinSTL on March 4, 2008 at 1:15 PM

This is a good thing, and not surprising. Those people are not stupid and they can see the violence religion brings. I wish more people in the world would cease believing in goblins.

If “God” does exist he should be tried for crimes against humanity and cruelty to animals.

deewhybee on March 4, 2008 at 1:22 PM

“Why go so far”? It’s a continuum, from Hitchens to Stalin (as much as that might annoy Hitchens and, if it does, good, I hope he marks his laundry if he sees this). Secularism provides no basis for not acting like a jihadi.

Akzed on March 4, 2008 at 12:33 PM

I’m pretty sure one is less likely to blow himself up in a suicide bomb attack if one doesn’t think one will be rewarded for it with eternal paradise.

phronesis on March 4, 2008 at 1:25 PM

“…a butcher with no knowledge of Islam became the leader of a mosque.”

Isn’t islam all about butchering?

Swinehound on March 4, 2008 at 1:27 PM

Iraq is the cultural center of islam. Arabic is spoken there. Wahabi is not practiced. It is the site for most of the glory years of Islam of the Caliphate, the intersection of Sunni and Shia streams, the center of learning (from a Muslim perspective), and the great shrines. Unlike Africa, where islam is mixed with local religion and tribal customs, and where pure Christianity can offer a valid alternative, Iraq culture must keep Christianity in its place. Only a move of God could change the landscapte, which, of course, I would love to have happen.

oldguy on March 4, 2008 at 1:30 PM

If it leads to less violence and a more stable Iraq, I’m all for it.

Yakko77 on March 4, 2008 at 1:32 PM

I read the article and the gist was that Iraq’s youth are fed up with Sharia Law. However, the key takeaway was that an atheist 19 year-old in Iraq (much like his or her counterparts in Europe or America) is kind of a self-important whiny asshole.

Not really any big news there…

ScottMcC on March 4, 2008 at 1:35 PM

“The sheiks are making a society of nonbelievers.”

First guy to figure out how to make the rest of the Muslim world ALL feel the same, WINS. And/or should win a billion dollars in prize money.

Shirotayama on March 4, 2008 at 1:52 PM

Wrapping their entire bodies in material on 120F days and having their clitoris removed with a razor has resulted in the unforeseen effect of women turning away from dreamscape of being one of Obama’s Osama’s eternal virgins.

Maybe there’s hope for these babes yet?

Hening on March 4, 2008 at 2:04 PM

It is impossible not to infer that the Bush Doctrine and the commitment of the men and women in uniform has facilitated this shift. Far from “creating more terrorists” as the failed cliché goes, the war has helped to nurture an appreciation for liberty among Iraqi youth.

Hope and change, no thanks to Barack Obama.

Buy Danish on March 4, 2008 at 2:23 PM

If “God” does exist he should be tried for crimes against humanity and cruelty to animals.

deewhybee on March 4, 2008 at 1:22 PM

And what would be the evidence that God (as opposed to misguided or evil people claiming to act in God’s name) has ever committed a single criminal act against any person or animal?

AZCoyote on March 4, 2008 at 2:28 PM

I’m not so sure that’s true. Under Saddam, Iraq was a non-religious state. He only used Islam when he needed to make a point (I have a picture at home my husband found in a burned out building in Fallujah, 2003 of Saddam praying on his prayer mat..Iraqis still make fun of it). My husband is a counterinsurgency expert in Religious Leader Engagment and just came back from working with Petraeus’ staff. He told me that religion is blooming in Iraq now that Saddams controlling hands are off Shia. He oppressed their expression of religion.

Iraq as a secular state now is a myth.

But of course Iraqis are recoiling from what you called “jihadis”. People usually misunderstand jihad and confuse it with terrorism, but this, too, is a myth. What Iraqis are rejecting is not religion but BAD THEOLOGY, i.e., terrorism. There is a distinct difference. Taqfari are false Muslims… Osama bin Laden, suicide bombers, militias and insurgents are all taqfari who use hirabah, or acts of violence/terrorism against innocents. They are apostates.

We know that there are many good Muslim people in Iraq, including sheiks, clerics and imams. In fact, the war could NOT BE WON without them. The turning point in Anbar Province and the rest of Iraq came when clerics and sheiks got involved and turned against al-Qaeda, and that, of course, wouldn’t have happened without the U.S. assuring religious leaders in Anbar that we would stay in Iraq as long as it takes.

So as I understand it, Iraq is not secular by a long shot. Religion is booming in Iraq and was suppressed under Saddam.

Amy Proctor on March 4, 2008 at 2:50 PM

PS…the author of the NYT article is describing Iraqis desire to not have an Iran – type religiously run state and are tired of the posturing of Shia like Sadr who do. But there’s no way it can be argued Iraqi’s are rejecting religion or that its moving toward secularism. No one wants a Taliban-type state.

Amy Proctor on March 4, 2008 at 3:08 PM

Amy Proctor on March 4, 2008 at 2:50 PM

Amy, have you never spent any time at http://www.jihadwatch.org? You would find abundant proof there that OBL is a faithful Muslim according to the Koran and other authoritative Muslim writings, and those who see it as a “religion of peace” don’t know what they’re talking about.

Akzed on March 4, 2008 at 3:18 PM

Amy Proctor on March 4, 2008 at 2:50 PM

Unfortunatley, Osama and crew claim the same thing about muslims that don’t follow what they preach.
And, per Saddam, I would say that someone who has a Koran written in his own blood and constructed a mosque with his name inscribed on every brick is not what we would typically call a secularist.

VolMagic on March 4, 2008 at 3:28 PM

For that reason, the American liberation tasted sweetest to the Shiites…

I’ll bet some editor loses his job over that slipping in there.

Typhoon on March 4, 2008 at 3:36 PM

“And what would be the evidence that God (as opposed to misguided or evil people claiming to act in God’s name) has ever committed a single criminal act against any person or animal?”

You want evidence? We’re talking about religion and you want evidence?

deewhybee on March 4, 2008 at 3:40 PM

You want evidence? We’re talking about religion and you want evidence?

deewhybee on March 4, 2008 at 3:40 PM

Yeah. You could have supplied some rather than write that.

I’ll make it easy for you: where does God, in the Bible, order Christians to kill anyone?

Akzed on March 4, 2008 at 3:45 PM

(…theme from Jeapardy plays in the background…)

Akzed on March 4, 2008 at 3:46 PM

(…crickets in the night…)

Akzed on March 4, 2008 at 3:48 PM

Don’t expect Iraqis to convert en masse to Christianity.

mram on March 4, 2008 at 1:08 PM

Not en masse, but there is a lot happening there, and across the whole Arab world; it just doesn’t get talked about a lot because the cost of following Jesus there is so high. Thousands of people are becoming Christians in Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Algeria, Kazakhstan, the West Bank…many of them have dreams and visions of Jesus; I know some personally who this has happened to.

tikvah on March 4, 2008 at 3:57 PM

I’ll make it easy for you: where does God, in the Bible, order Christians to kill anyone?

Akzed on March 4, 2008 at 3:45 PM

You really should have specified that as the New Testament.

Speakup on March 4, 2008 at 4:01 PM

First we need evidence for the existence of “God” before we can realistically charge him/her/it with anything.

It’s been thousands of years and so far, nothing.

deewhybee on March 4, 2008 at 4:10 PM

I’ll make it easy for you: where does God, in the Bible, order Christians to kill anyone?
Akzed on March 4, 2008 at 3:45 PM

You really should have specified that as the New Testament.

Key word: “Christians.”

Akzed on March 4, 2008 at 4:36 PM

First we need evidence for the existence of “God” before we can realistically charge him/her/it with anything. It’s been thousands of years and so far, nothing.
deewhybee on March 4, 2008 at 4:10 PM

You’re changing the subject. You were being critical of the deliterious effects of religion, not God’s existence. You lose points for trotting out a straw man.

So I reiterate, where does God, in the Bible, order Christians to kill anyone? Even if He didn’t actually exist, He’s a character in the Bible. The Christian religion is based on the Bible. So please tell us where God (or the author who made Him up) orders Christians to kill anyone.

Furthermore, since 90% of humans are theists of some kind, it is incumbant upon the atheist to explain himself. So please, since you declare that there is no God, tell us where you have looked for Him and infallibly found Him to be absent. I doubt that your search was exhaustive. In fact, I doubt that you’ve searched at all.

Akzed on March 4, 2008 at 4:43 PM

Akzed, first off I’m not an atheist because atheism is a dogma. I didn’t say “God” does not exist. I’m open to proof that “God” exists. I’m still waiting.

I was speaking of religion and you narrow things down to Christianity as though Christianity is all encompassing of religion when it is just one of many.

I can’t help but notice that even if “God” didn’t order anyone to kill anyone, many people take it upon themselves to do it for their god. If that is not a negative effect of religion I would like to know what qualifies. Religion provides an unaccountable anthropomorphic fiction people can use to justify horrible behavior. Religion demands that adherents abandon reason.

Consensus is not the basis for reality. If most people believe the world is flat it does not make the world flat. God does not exist because of popular opinion. So, show me some evidence and I will be convinced. If “God” is everywhere then evidence should abound.

deewhybee on March 4, 2008 at 5:52 PM

So, show me some evidence and I will be convinced. If “God” is everywhere then evidence should abound.

deewhybee on March 4, 2008 at 5:52 PM

Why should anyone “show you” something that you obviously have not cared enough to search for yourself? If you had you probably wouldn’t be making these silly requests. The evidence of God’s existence is EVERYWHERE!!!

jimbo2008 on March 4, 2008 at 6:49 PM

I’ll make it easy for you: where does God, in the Bible, order Christians to kill anyone?

Akzed on March 4, 2008 at 3:45 PM

The Bible doesn’t say it, but Jesus implies it when at his arrest in the Garden he tells Peter that if his kingdom were of this world he would fight.

jimbo2008 on March 4, 2008 at 6:52 PM

This reminds me of the idea, and i suppose it is a ‘true-ism’ that the peace movement fuels the support of national defense and the war effort just as much as war fuels peace movements.
Besides, it IS the 21st century and every heart does yearn to be free.

Christine on March 4, 2008 at 8:12 PM