An Electronic Magazine for Thinkers

Unmanageable Religious Violence

BAGHDAD (Reuters)10/15/06 - Shouting for revenge after the slaying of 14 Shi'ite workers, black-clad militias killed at least 31 people in a spasm of sectarian violence in a town north of Baghdad, police, doctors and local residents said on Sunday. Iraq has been gripped by sectarian violence between Muslim Shi'ites and Sunnis since the bombing of a Shi'ite shrine in February. Thousands have been killed in tit-for-tat revenge killings and more than 300,000 have fled their homes

      If the people of the United States think they're going to control  the ancient hatred between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims in Iraq, or anywhere else, they will go to the poorhouse trying.  These religious factions have been at odds for more than 1,300 years and there's nothing to be done about it. Nothing.  They will just keep at it until one side murders enough of the opposition to beat it into submission.  

      News media don't help a bit by calling the atrocities connected with this religious war "sectarian violence."  How many average readers/viewers know what "sectarian" means?  Why not call it what it is - religious violence, complete with torture and beheadings?

      No Sunni or Shi'ite in his right mind in Iraq is going to back an American-style democracy.  What these people want is a theocracy dominated by the religion of their choice.  Americans will be dragged to the poorhouse trying to pay for the installation of a working secular democracy in Iraq, and they don't see it coming.  Add to the mix the millions of "reluctant Muslims," the Kurds, who want to be left alone, and you have the makings of a religious war that will splatter blood all over the landscape.   In a way, the Kurds have an edge because they have been in business a lot longer than the Sunnis and Shi'ites who didn't begin to adopt their present views of the supernatural until after their prophet died in 632.  (Kurds lean toward Zoroastrianism, a much older style of religious faith.)

       To illustrate the zaniness of this whole thing, consider the major difference between Sunnis and Shi'ites.  They both believe in one God, Allah.  The Shi'ites also believe in the infallibility of their Imams who interpret the text of the Holy Qur'an.  Sunnis frown upon that line of thinking.  They believe every word in the Qur'an and are bent out of shape by people who don't.  Moreover, Sunnis think they will see God (Allah) when they die and Shi'ites don't think he will be visible in the Hereafter.   Shi'ism, in the eye of Sunnis, is a separate religion founded on bad tenets - - hence the unending feud.  

       Can we afford to get into the middle of all that?  No.  And it's stupid to go broke trying to impose a secular system of government on a people involved in a religious feud that's impossible to smother.  As in all religious debate neither side can prove its case.  To the casual eye it's as ridiculous as John Calvin allowing the Spanish scholar, Michael Servetus, to be burned at the stake over their quibble concerning the Trinity.  Calvin held that Jesus was the everlasting son of God while Servetus argued that Jesus was the son of an everlasting God.  Millions of people over the ages have died over arguments like that. 

       The framers of the U.S. Constitution, several of whom were skeptics, desired to keep religion from an entanglement with politics.  That was a sensible idea and we ought to stick with it.  If people in other parts of the world want to try it the Constitution is widely available on the Internet and they can copy it word for word.  If they prefer the brutality of  Theocracy they should be free to take that route, but certainly not at the considerable expense of the taxpayers of the USA.  

       Since the likelihood of Shi'ites and Sunnis becoming chummy is remote, the least the world press could do is stop disguising the fact that their quarrel is religious.  Hiding the matter behind the bland phrase "sectarian violence" solves nothing.

October 16th, 2006