Thursday, February 3, 2011

Young Iraqis Losing Faith in Islam

After Saddam Hussein's regime fell, it was saddening to see so much violence and terrorism in Iraq. But there has, at last, been one positive outcome to the carnage. Young Iraqis, who finally see first-hand the violence being promoted by their leaders, are losing their respect for Islam.

BAGHDAD — After almost five years of war, many young Iraqis, 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.

In two months of interviews with 40 young people in five Iraqi cities, a pattern of disenchantment emerged, in which young Iraqis, both poor and middle class, blamed clerics for the violence and the restrictions that have narrowed their lives.

"I hate Islam and all the clerics because they limit our freedom every day and their instruction became heavy over us," said Sara Sami, a high school student in Basra. "Most of the girls in my high school hate that Islamic people control the authority because they don't deserve to be rulers."

Atheer, a 19-year-old from a poor, heavily Shiite neighborhood in southern Baghdad, said: "The religion men are liars. Young people don't believe them. Guys my age are not interested in religion anymore."

The shift in Iraq runs counter to trends of rising religiousness among young people across much of the Middle East, where religion has replaced nationalism as a unifying ideology. While religious extremists are admired by a number of young people in other parts of the Arab world, Iraq offers a test case of what could happen when extremist theories are applied.

Fingers caught smoking were broken. Long hair was cut and force-fed to its owner. In that laboratory, disillusionment with Islamic leaders took hold.

It is far from clear whether the shift means a wholesale turn away from religion. A tremendous piety still predominates in the private lives of young Iraqis, and religious leaders, despite the increased skepticism, still wield tremendous power. Measuring religiousness furthermore, is a tricky business in Iraq, where access to cities and towns that are far from Baghdad is limited.

But a shift seems to be registering, at least anecdotally, in the choices some young Iraqis are making. Professors reported difficulty recruiting graduate students for religion classes. Attendance at weekly prayers appears to be down, even in areas where the violence has largely subsided, according to worshipers and imams in Baghdad and Falluja. In two visits to the weekly prayer session in Baghdad of the followers of Moktada al-Sadr last autumn, vastly smaller crowds attended than had in 2004 or 2005.

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 scrubbing overt references to religion. (Read more.)


Traeh said...

A subtext of this NYT article seems to be: "Perhaps we shouldn't worry about the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Perhaps we should support the emergence of a freer, democratic Egypt, even though that might bring religious extremism. These interviews with forty Iraqi youths suggest that youth in Egypt may well end up alienated from extremism, if exposed to it. The new direction in Egypt should be supported."

Unfortunately, the media in the new Egypt are unlikely to be anything near as free as that in post-Saddam Iraq, birthed under the eyes of American planners.

I suspect Iraq's free media (free by Arab standards, at least) has been important in fostering in young Iraqis an awareness of what Islam really is. Without a free media in Egypt, the result there may be very different.

Paul Hubert said...

As to Egypt, I believe we need to remain mindful of Isaiah 19:16-25.

My point here being that GOD is in control, no matter WHAT we are seeing.

Remember that we live by faith not by sight - SO often a difficult thing to implement throughout our day especially when inundated with dramatic news accounts.

betwixt said...

Out of Topic:

For those interested, here's the link to the mobile version of this blog:

I often check for new comments on my phone. The mobile version is quicker and much more convenient.

betwixt said...

I have been in contact with some friends in Egypt. Some are Mubarak supporters and some are not, but they are all determined to have a government that is theirs. More power to them.

Egypt will not become a democratic government overnight, but I pray that the right foundations will be planted as a result of these protests. God's will be done.

Charis kai Eirene said...

It may be the case that a religion such as Islam that forcefully coerces external conformity to its moral dictates without regard to internal transformation of the spirit, sets the stage for its own overthrow. People obey politico-religious laws out of fear or self-preservation rather than true spiritual commitment, and this appears to increase resentment, potentially to the point of revolt. Islam's barbarity is it's own self-destruct button.

goethechosemercy said...

Democracy, in the Middle East, is nothing more than the tyranny of the majority.
Republicanism is nothing more than oriental despotism whose language has changed.
The West is where democracy and republicanism are.
In the rest of the world, they are not understood in the same way.

alshawi1234 said...

I'm a Muslim from Iraq and I just happened to run across this article. Iv noticed that the publisher makes it seem like we are anti-islamic, that us not the case, but we have a problem with the religious "scholars" that have caused all the chaos after invasion. The biggest problem is most of them are thieves and use their religious authority to impose what they wish on the people. We know very well that these people don't represent Islam. Most of them turned into "scholars" after the fall of saddam. They would usually buy turbans for five bucks and pretend to be shieks. During 2004-2008 they Would control the oil and steal all the money. But with all that and also we mock most "scholars", we still respect and have our faith in god. and that is shown in participation on religious occasion. But we still suggest that religion stays away from politics because there are no real "scholars" who have pure faith.