March 4, 2008

Alternate title: "George W. Bush was Right"

Mike Plaiss sent me a link to this article in the NYT, Violence Leaves Young Iraqis Doubting Clerics.

...When Muath was arrested last year, the police found two hostages, Shiite brothers, in a safe house that Muath told them about. Photographs showed the men looking wide-eyed into the camera; dark welts covered their bodies.

Violent struggle against the United States was easy to romanticize at a distance.

“I used to love Osama bin Laden,” proclaimed a 24-year-old Iraqi college student. She was referring to how she felt before the war took hold in her native Baghdad. The Sept. 11, 2001, strike at American supremacy was satisfying, and the deaths abstract.

Now, the student recites the familiar complaints: Her college has segregated the security checks; guards told her to stop wearing a revealing skirt; she covers her head for safety.

“Now I hate Islam,” she said, sitting in her family’s unadorned living room in central Baghdad. “Al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army are spreading hatred. People are being killed for nothing.”...

Well, there you go. Bush was right, and I was right. I've been saying for a long time that the violence of al Qaeda in Iraq would immunize people against radical Islam. I doubt if the administration intended for things to work out just as they have, but you might call it unconscious genius.

Some people claim that if we nurture democracy in the Middle East, the populations will just elect radical Islamists. No doubt some of them would do just that. But, there's nothing like having your fingers chopped off for smoking a cigarette to concentrate the mind.

And while I'm glad to see young Iraqis rejecting violence-preaching clerics, my advice to them would be to not discard their faith. The combination of peace, prosperity and secularism is deadly, as we see currently in Europe. Shi'ism at least is probably compatible with democracy, since it generally advocates a separation of church and state, at least until the Mahdi comes. The Iranian regime is an exception to the general trend of Shia theology.

Posted by John Weidner at March 4, 2008 2:25 PM
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