Who are we?
Iraq Struggles With Its National Identity
Harith Hasan for Al-Monitor Iraq, 22-8-2013
“So we stand unshaken, clear in our mind and vision as to truth against falsehood, the colour black , which represents darkness, wickedness and aberration, as opposed to the colour white which represents truth, justice, fairness, purity, virtue, adherence to principle and defending these principles against those who abandoned them…, blind in both heart and conscience.” Saddam Hussein, 16-11-2002
“You Westerners do not realize that an Arab can do without everything except his dignity. If you touch his dignity he will be as ferocious as a lion.” Patriarch Raphael I Bidawid of Babylon over the Chaldeans, 2002
“A lot of rulers today still view principled people, who persist in defending their noble and just causes and who refuse to compromise at the expense of their peoples, their nations, the honour of their cause, their integrity and their principles, as a burden on them. The policy of the United States still finds in this kind of genuine, honest and loyal people an obstacle before their evil and futile ambitions towards the world and humanity at large…” Saddam Hoessein, Oath and Speech, INA 17-10-2002
Iraqi Minister of Higher Education Ali al-Adeeb, who’s also a leading member of the Islamic Dawa Party, took part in a frank television interview with the Al Baghdadia channel Aug. 4. One of the questions [..] pertained to the lack of focus on Iraq’s pre-Muslim history in school and university curricula.
It’s interesting because this time period is not the subject of dispute. It reflects Iraq’s unique civilization and identity, and may, in fact, be an adequate substitute for the subject of the country’s Muslim history, which is rife with sectarian and religious divisions and disagreements.
In his answer, Adeeb did not seem enthused by the proposition, affirming instead that the correct alternative lay in teaching Islam in an open and unprejudiced manner… The minister’s answer did not come as a surprise considering his Islamic background…
The Islamic Dawa Party, also known as the Islamic Call Party, is a political party in Iraq. Dawa and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council are two of the main parties in the religious-Shiite United Iraqi Alliance. The party is led by Nouri al-Maliki, who is also the current Prime Minister of Iraq. The party backed the Iranian Revolution and also Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini during the Iran-Iraq War.
The debate about the relationship between identity and school curricula is not new to Iraq. It is as old as the Iraqi state.
Since the issue of identity has always been at the core of the process to build the Iraqi nation, it is only natural that the matter of school curricula evolve into a contentious political one. The country’s prevailing sociopolitical conflict has mainly revolved around defining what it means to be Iraqi and its relations with other identities: Arab, Kurdish, Islamic, Sunni and Shiite.
One of the most famous controversies relating to this subject saw Sati al-Husri, who was in charge of education and curricula during the 1930s, disagreeing with a US committee that visited Iraq to assess the country’s school curricula of the time.
The committee concluded that Iraqi school curricula were highly centralized, static, did not take into consideration social needs as well as were ignorant of social diversity and local specificities. These remarks did not sit well with Husri who had nationalist tendencies and wanted to use curricula to instill secular pan-Arab nationalist ideologies in students…
As a result, since that date, teaching curricula in Iraq have been dominated by Husri’s school of thought, which reached its apogee during the Baath Party’s rule. From here stems Adeeb’s criticism of these curricula and his calls for the adoption of a new philosophy built upon “pluralism without negating the role of religion.”
There are two major problems, however, in this regard.
First, the difficulty of establishing a pluralistic curriculum [..], while, at the same time, emphasizing national unity.
Second is the difficulty of completing such a task at a time when Iraq is the victim of a sharp sectarian conflict replete with religious, historical and mythological symbols that are used for sectarian mobilization.
Adeeb has endured similar critiques, among them accusations that he is sponsoring an ideological cleansing operation being undertaken in Iraqi universities, particularly through his strict commitment to de-Baathification.
Furthermore, some objections have arisen about history books lacking any reference to important eras and events that occurred in Iraqi history, particularly during the Baath Party’s rule, and the Iraq-Iran war, which many Sunnis still believe was a just national war…
It remains clear that the important thorny questions pertaining to the subject of identity and sectarian conflict remain open…..
The 1930s dispute between Husri and the US committee remains unresolved, because it is tied to a broader political debate about which curricula must be used to build the Iraqi nation.
Harith Hasan is an Iraqi scholar and the author of Imagining the Nation: Nationalism, Sectarianism and Socio-Political Conflict in Iraq.
Saddam Hussein & The Iranian
ideological and religious campaign
Saddam Hussein had started a war with Iran in 1980, with full support of the West and with fantasies of an easy victory over a non-existent army battered by dismissals, executions and escape of most of its upper decision-makers following the Iranian revolution of 1979. His dream and the dream of his backers were quickly shattered when untrained and often unarmed grassroots resistance forces of largely ordinary Iranians stopped the invasion headed by his advanced and well-armed army.
The first two years of the war is full of heroic and incredible stories of battles that eventually led to pushing the Iraqi army all the way behind the international borders.
However, Khomeini, Rafsanjani and others at the top, refused to stop the war at this point, despite several offers by Saddam and his supporting neighbors to pay restitution, accepting culpability for the war and advice of top military experts. They announced that the war shall continue until the fall of Saddam and thus pulled the country into an additional 6 years of unnecessary and disastrous war costing billions with over a million dead and injured.
The war was now an ideological and religious campaign and not a nationalistic and defensive effort of Iranian people.
Finally in 1988, Khomeini accepted that his pursuit of “regime change” was unrealistic and as he put it; he drank the “goblet of poison” by accepting the ceasefire. (the eyeranian)
Saddam Hussein & New Babylon
Saddam saw himself as a social revolutionary and a modernizer, following the model of Nasser. To the consternation of Islamic conservatives, his regime gave women added freedoms and offered them high-level government and industry jobs.
Saddam also created a Western-style legal system, making Iraq the only country in the Persian Gulf region not ruled according to Islamic law. Saddam abolished the Sharia-law courts except for personal injury claims.
Saddam justified Iraqi patriotism, in the form of claiming a unique role of Iraq in the history of the Arab world. As president, Saddam made frequent references to the Abbasid period, when Baghdad was the political, cultural, and economic capital of the Arab world. He also promoted Iraq’s pre-Islamic role as the ancient cradle of civilization, Mesopotamia, alluding to such historical figures as Nebuchadnezzar and Hammurabi.
He devoted resources to archaeological explorations. In effect, Saddam sought to combine pan-Arabism and Iraqi nationalism, by promoting the vision of an Arab world united and led by Iraq. (Wikipedia)