Now, Religion in the News—a report and comment on religious trends and events being covered by the media. This week’s item is from the New York Times, April 4, 2003, with the
headline: “Politics and Religion Join the Fray in Iraq—The mullah with the automatic pistol in his hand pointed to the dead man in a hospital courtyard and said he was a Syrian suicide bomber who had come to attack Saddam’s city, a poor Shiite Muslim neighborhood, hoping to destabilize a newly liberated Iraq. ‘Don’t touch him! Don't touch him!’ shouted the mullah, Sadeq al-Hassnawi, waving away hospital staff members with his pistol. He said he wanted American munitions experts to come and defuse a bomb he believed was concealed in the dead man’s gauze-wrapped forearm.
“Outside the hospital gate, men with battle-worn kalashnikovs pushed back a gathering crowd to allow a white minivan into the hospital yard. Men spilled from the van, pulling out a dazed and beaten man with a cauliflower ear. The mullah identified him as the second Syrian attacker, who had briefly escaped after trying to bomb the hospital an hour before. But four hours later, when a squad of United States Marines arrived to look at the suspected bomb, the body was gone. ‘Syrians?’ a more senior mullah said to an American officer, a downcast Mr. Hassnawi standing by. ‘There are no Syrians here.’
“The incident was typical of recent events in the shadowy world of Saddam’s city, where ‘who is shooting whom, and why’ is one of the mysteries clouding this war-damaged and dysfunctional city. Most Shiites say they are being attacked by Sunni Muslims, angry with the Shiites for not having fought harder to stop the American invaders and jealous of the rise in stature that Shiites will probably enjoy in a more democratic Iraq.
“Others say it is Saddam loyalists trying to create instability to make it harder for Americans to govern…. The marines stationed on the edge of Saddam’s city say residents have turned over to them at least six non-Iraqi fighters, including Syrians and Jordanians who were caught in the district. But the marines believe much of the shooting is by nervous Shiites warning off suspected or imagined intruders in the dark and lawless section of the capital. “More deadly fire might be aimed at longstanding rivals in the poor and crowded residential area or simply come from jumpy guards at makeshift roadblocks. ‘We’re letting them sort it out themselves,’ said Major David Holahan, with marines on the edge of the district.
“One thing is certain, the shooting is not directed at American troops. As a tank and several assault vehicles clanked and roared Sunday night through Saddam city’s surreal streets, the gunfire fell silent, and the red tracers dwindled to a distant few. Residents appeared on street corners and on balconies to cheer the show of force, the marines’ first nighttime patrol through the district.”
Tom: Dave, the thing that stands out for me in this article is the statement by Major David Holahan saying, “We are letting them sort it out themselves.” There’s going to be a lot of sorting there, and the issue of religion of Islam and the factions within Islam, Shiite and Sunni—that’s going to create all kinds of problems, don’t you think?
Dave: Tom, this lie that “Islam is peace”—it angers me. They keep saying it. Where did Islam ever bring peace? Never, ever once! In fact, it didn’t even bring peace, as you said, among the factions. There are all kinds of factions within the Muslim community, the Ummah, as they call it.
Tom: Hey, Dave, are Kurds—are they Muslim?
Dave: They are, but they are a different ethnic group. But look, Muhammad was succeeded by four Caliphs. They called them “the rightly guided Caliphs.” Three of them were murdered by other Muslims. There was a power struggle that went on—you can follow it down through history, among the Saudis, just to establish Ibn Saud to get Saudi Arabia there. Talk about fighting! I mean, I can’t even begin to recount it—all the different factions that there were, and some of them they allowed to have Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Syria. Why did we have to go to the Gulf ten years ago to bring peace? These were Muslims fighting one another, and even though Saddam Hussein raped Kuwait—I mean, what he did there was just beyond belief. Oh, he is still praised by Arafat and by others because he is a brother, and he was going to destroy Israel.
The Shiites, of course, they are the followers of Ali, the son-in-law of Muhammad, and Ali was murdered also, and they have his tomb there in Iraq. And so this is one faction—the Sunnis are the majority. They don’t get along with one another, and this is peace?
And when you look at the looters, this is what Islam has done? This is what Islam created. Go to Afghanistan—who are these warlords? They’re Muslims. Why are we there trying to bring peace among warring factions in Afghanistan killing one another if we didn’t prevent it, but Islam has been there for centuries! Why hasn’t Islam brought peace into the hearts of these people? Why hasn’t it brought peace among them? And not only no peace but no integrity—the lies they tell: “Oh, there are no Syrians here!” Yeah, just like there were no Americans in Baghdad….
Tom: Baghdad Bob?
Dave: …as the Minister of Information kept saying. How could he—I mean, you’ve got to be crazy to keep saying that! You know it’s a lie, and you know it’s going to be exposed, but he just keeps persisting. This is Islam, again this is what Islam does. And the looters, the lack of integrity that there is because of Islam, and it brings unrest, it brings double-cross, one against another, murders, they’re killing one another. This is not good, Tom.
Tom: Dave, is there any hope for democracy there?
Dave: There is no democracy in the Middle East except Israel. Democracy is anathema to Islam. Islam cannot exist where there is freedom to make your own choices. If they can establish—if we can establish democracy there…and the group that met recently, remember? Iraqi leaders themselves—they said, “We are going to establish a democratic government.” Wow! That is going to be a sore in the midst of the other Muslim nations, and it’s going to cause unrest among the people. There are going to be other people who will say, “Well, we want freedom, too, in our country.” It could open the door—it could break down the Islamic curtain that I have been praying for so long, and open the door to truth and to the gospel and freedom.