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March 04, 2008

NYT: Violence, Extremism Have Turned Many Iraqis Away From Islam

Invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity.

I don't mean that -- not really -- but it seems apropos.

After almost five years of war, many young people in Iraq, 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.

The youth prison wing of the Iraqi police compound in Baghdad. Many young people have taken part in Iraq’s sectarian violence.

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, 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 religious practice among young people across much of the Middle East, where religion has replaced nationalism as a unifying ideology.

...

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 dropping overt references to religion.

“In the beginning, they gave their eyes and minds to the clerics; they trusted them,” said Abu Mahmoud, a moderate Sunni cleric in Baghdad, who now works deprogramming religious extremists in American detention. “It’s painful to admit, but it’s changed. People have lost too much. They say to the clerics and the parties: You cost us this.”

“When they behead someone, they say ‘Allahu akbar,’ they read Koranic verse,” said a moderate Shiite sheik from Baghdad, using the phrase for “God is great.”

“The young people, they think that is Islam,” he said. “So Islam is a failure, not only in the students’ minds, but also in the community.”

Read the whole thing.

Islamism seems, thankfully, self-limiting; it's great at promoting itself, but once the Islamists actually take over, they quickly turn everyone into anti-Islamists.

Caution: Bear in mind the most elemental sort of media bias: The reporter's determination to find a capital-T Trend in everyfuckingthing; otherwise she doesn't have a story, she only has scattered anecdotes which mean nothing at all.


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posted by Ace at 11:01 AM

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