Monday, 23 April 2007

Response from Peter Sluglett on"Sectarianism: Our Miserable Reality"

Dear All,

Please find below the response I had received from Mr. Sluglett about my latest post titled "Sectarianism, our miserable reality". Prof Peter Sluglett is the British historian who was debating this sensitive subject with a group of Iraqi "Academics" on other blogsite.

for details about Prof. Peter Sluglett, please click below:

Mr. sluglett's response ( in dark blue and bold letters):

(Recently I have noticed that there is a growing trend by many academics, Arabs as well as Iraqis, journalists and even bloggers interested in Iraqi political history, to paint a rosy picture of Iraq prior to the American invasion in 2003. It was a very good tactic, as on one hand, they denounce the whole political process endorsed by the Americans in Iraq and criticises the failure of subsequent Iraqi governments (which is right as things are moving from bad to worse in Iraq now), But on the other hand, these strategies work intentionally to “polish” Saddam and the Ba’ath dictatorship. In addition and through a process of “desensitization”, these people deny, or at least, try to lessen the impact of Saddam’s regime atrocities by comparing them to what is happening now.
I am well aware of the dangers of that and I don’t think I can be accused of doing so.
For example, when Abdul-Bari Attwan of Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, was asked in an interview about the mass graves and Saddam’s Mukhabarat torture chambers, he purposefully answered the question by a comparison with what the Americans did in Abu Ghraib prison. These attempts are seriously dangerous as conclude that Iraqis do not deserve a decent, peaceful and prosperous life. Furthermore, it states that we always must be ruled by dictators otherwise we will end up with what we currently have under the American occupation. This is a variant of the strong man theory beloved by, among others, the absurd Majid Khadduri This issue is very complicated and has many aspects that needs to be addressed and discussed thoroughly but I am trying to highlight one fundamental problem that dominated the modern Iraq History: Sectarianism. If you regularly follow popular Iraqi blogs (some are listed on my blog site) and the way they handle the “Sectarianism” issue in Iraqi society, you can admit that most of them try to persuade us that Sectarianism was not known to Iraqis until the Americans invaded Iraq. Ma kan farq baynana etc So it was a post 2003 phenomenon. Obviously nonsense.
Moreover, they insist that previous regimes that ruled Iraq from 1921 to 2003 was not sectarian-built and the Shia of Iraq in particular, were well represented in all parts of the government. Neither of these two things is correct, but it is much more nuanced.
Look at the following excerpts: “The reality is, back then, the British did not use the divide and rule among the Moslem population so you never new who was a Shia and who was a Sunni” Nonsense again “Iraqis at the time and later never considered themselves as Sunni or Shia but as Muslims. That was the reality” Also rubbish “We, Iraqis, do not identify ourselves as Sunnis and Shias, not even as Moslems or Christians, not before the occupation anyway. When asked about our identity we would say: Iraqis. The 1970 Iraqi Constitution, which is still valid, as we do not recognize a constitution written by the occupier, states that Iraq consists of two main ethnic groups: Arabs and Kurds, in addition to Turkmen and other groups. We do not consider a sect or a religion is an identity” Again this is an invention “The Iraqi non-sectarian approach to Iran and Da'wa party and other similar parties was obvious from the fact that most of the Iraqi troops which fought Iran during the 8 years war, were Shias defending "not their faith" but their own country against Iran” There is a certain amount of truth in this “The intifada which took part in the south during the crisis of the Kuwait war and after the withdrawal of the Iraqi army, while the state was at its weakest, was run by the Iranian guards and militias, the same which are conducting now the crimes of mass kidnapping, torturing, and killing.” This reflects an anti-Iranian bias which both does and does not have substance. “All what we hear now is how the Shiites were excluded from the government jobs and the high ranks in the baath party and the Iraqi cabinets under the rule of baath party. We don’t hear about how the Sunnis suffered too, and the Turkumans and the Kurds and everyone”. Again, sentence 1 is fairly accurate and sentence 2 we tried to address in Iraq since 1958 .. The above were extracts from correspondences by Iraqi academics (and one from another popular Iraqi blog) debating the issue of sectarianism with a British historian dealing specifically with modern Iraqi history since the 70s. It is obvious that they deny any sectarian elements in our history especially when it comes to the sensitive issue of Shia and Sunnis. The point is, not to deny sectarianism, but to look and see how it actually functioned. Iraq 1920-6t3 for instance wasn’t Northern Ireland where the largest political fact was the Catholic/Protestant split. Now, let’s look at facts and stop hiding things under the carpet. We have to admit that sectarianism is deeply embedded in our society since the Othoman-Safavid wars era. It was intensified with the creation of modern Iraq in 1921 and it was the ONLY stable Iraqi political phenomenon that successive regimes, including the current government (except Abdul Kareem Qassim’s’ regime) agreed upon. BUT it was a political sectarianism manipulated by the state against its citizens and not obviously apparent (although present) on grass root levels. Again even this seems a bit strong because for most of the time it was a government run by Sunnis rather than a Sunni government.
Covering the aspects of this issue from 1921 until now needs books to be written rather than a blog. Exactly; it also benefits from comparison with Bosnia, Lebanon etc.)


Anonymous said...

Hello Shako Mako,

I enjoyed reading your debate but would you be so kind to give us the link about the discussions with other Iraqi bloggers / historians ?

Thanks and great post, تحياتي

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