Opposition to U.S. Unites Shi'a and Sunni Muslims

June 29, 2004

Source: Beliefnet.com


On June 29, 2004 Beliefnet.com ran an editorial piece by Mark LeVine, a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of California-Irvine, and Nir Rosen, a freelance journalist who has spent the past 15 months in Iraq, on the role of religion in the "new Iraq." They write, "What has largely united Sunnis and Shi‘a is the increasingly intense opposition to the U.S.-led occupation. In fact, most Iraqis believe the United States’ major accomplishment since removing Hussein from power has been unifying Iraqis against what most of them believe is an unjust occupation. Religion plays an important role in this situation, for three reasons: first, the more religious people are, the more likely they are to oppose the occupation, specifically on religious grounds. This is because radical Muslims are particularly influenced by the Medieval thinker Ibn Taymiyya, who wrote after the fall of Baghdad to the Mongols. He viewed Christians and Jews as allies of the Mongols and as threats to the security and purity of Islam. The latest radical view of Islam sees a new threat of occupation by outside forces. Second, it is impossible to separate religion from nationalism in Iraq (or most other countries for that matter), which means that while many observers feared the Shi‘a might opt for some kind of independent state with strong ties to Iran, the reality is that most Shi‘a are also strong Iraqi nationalists. Third, in the context of the intense violence and chaos plaguing the country for the last year, strongly (and usually conservatively) religious people remain among the few Iraqis willing to protest the occupation. And because most of the protesters are not just young, angry, religious and armed--but also men--the situation is distorting the real picture of Islam in Iraq. The protesters are shutting women out of the public sphere just when women’s voices are needed most."