Star and Crescent Rising - the mullahs may nix our Shia pet
April 23, 2003 10:27 PM   Subscribe

There was a spontaneity about the crowd that contrasted with the sullenness and silences of the Saddam years. Most converged in the centre from all directions and joined throngs marching up and down Ali Abbas and Hussein streets, next to the Shia Muslims' two holiest shrines. Others exercised the right to do nothing, to sit on doorsteps watching people pass, to play or to cook on open fires. They chanted that they had come to celebrate their martyrs in spite of all the efforts by Saddam to persecute their religion. In keeping with Shia tradition, some tore their clothes and cut themselves, drawing blood. Others flogged themselves with chains, to bring themselves closer to the pain of the martyrs.
Iraqi Shiites Show Their Fervor in City They Hold Holy.
U.S. Planners Surprised by Strength of Iraqi Shiites.
Why the Mullahs Love a Revolution.
The war was won as planned.
The peace was not planned quite as meticulously.
A Democratic Iraq May Not Be Friendly to U.S. (More Within)
posted by y2karl (22 comments total)

Chalabi, our man in Kabul is not quite the dream candidate the pentagon envisioned. While he may be a Shiite and an advocate of a secular democracy, he's also quite possibly a crook, and, an unwanted puppet as well. Karbala's pilgrims may signify something else-- that religious leaders are legitimising Iraqi resistance to occupation. And it's not only the Shia but Sunnis, too. Some of the most unusual people are asking whether a secular Iraq with modern American-style religious freedom is possible. Insiders are already pointing fingers.
posted by y2karl at 10:28 PM on April 23, 2003

double post.
posted by Espoo2 at 10:34 PM on April 23, 2003

The latest TalkingPointsMemo is dedicated to the fractures in our plan for Iraqi democracy: "Which is worse? That there are five or six different exile groups vying to control post-war Iraq? Or that each of those five or six groups is allied with a different arm of the United States government? "
posted by kaibutsu at 10:34 PM on April 23, 2003

Dang, I loused up the picture link for cut themselves. This works on preview, but if it doesn't on post, try this.
posted by y2karl at 10:37 PM on April 23, 2003

A double post in that one link is common or for the topic? I stand by my links.
posted by y2karl at 10:42 PM on April 23, 2003

Sometimes it's hard to be a poster
Giving all your love to just one website
You'll have bad times
And mefi'll have good times
Doing things that you don't understand
But if you love mefi you'll forgive it
Even though it's hard to understand
And if you love your post
Oh be proud of your post
'Cause after all it's just a post
Stand by your links
Give them two arms to cling to
And something warm to come to
When nights are cold and lonely
Stand by your links
And tell the world you love your post
Keep giving all the love you can
Stand by your links
Stand by your links
And show the world you love your post
Keep giving us the love you can
Stand by your links
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 10:54 PM on April 23, 2003

That was doubleplusgood, _sirmissalot_
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:31 PM on April 23, 2003

I noticed this today in Talking Points Memo, kaibutsu:

still want to say more about Newt Gingrich's cartoonish performance at AEI yesterday. But for the moment I just want to discuss an interchange which Charles Krauthammer, another of the members of the panel, had with one of the questioners. (One of the most entertaining parts of the panel was the time when Gingrich's clownish, grade-school rhetoric became too much for Krauthammer, and he felt the need to pipe in with some clarifications.)

A key question today is what we would do if the Iraqis elected an Islamist government. When a questioner posed this question to Krauthammer, he as much as refused to entertain it. While granting that it was a possibility, he said it was extremely unlikely since people had never freely voted for what he called 'totalitarianism.' (I think he called it an 'extreme hypothetical' or perhaps a 'radical hypothetical' -- I'll check my recording later to verify.) People in the audience tossed out the examples of Iran and Nazi Germany, which are at best flawed examples, since in neither case did a majority of the population vote for the government that came to power. But it has happened, exactly this, as recently as 1992 in Algeria* . The Islamist party, the FIS, was winning what no one doubted was a free election when the military stepped in and annulled the results of the election. (The one saving grace in Iraq may be the inability of Shi'a and Sunni Islamist to come together politically, let alone religiously.)

In its own way Krauthammer's comment was the most disturbing part of the presentation since it was an example of the one thing none of us can really afford: the temptation to cling to ideologically-driven assumptions over observed facts.

*Something similar happened in Turkey when the Islamists first won an election, if I recall.
posted by y2karl at 11:34 PM on April 23, 2003

9 posts, 5 by y2karl

Monofilter: when the "main" contributor to a thread is the author.
posted by dand at 11:47 PM on April 23, 2003

Hm, somehow I missed that one. Good call, though. I'm also reminded of Hungary, which in something like 1890, after hundreds of years of oppression, decided to be a monarchy in a popular election. Comedy ensues; lacking anyone with divine right, they put the head of the navy at the head of the new state. (He was probably bored and had nothing else to do, since Hungary is landlocked and all.) He later got the dubious distinction of declaring war on the US in WWII, part of a long string of bad Hungarian luck in choosing sides... (the situation was a bit more complex than that, but this is the comedy version, mind you.) Seriously, TPM is about the best political punditry site out there, IMO, and anyone who bothers reading the IraqFilter posts can probably save themselves some time and heartache by just reading Marshall regularly.
posted by kaibutsu at 12:47 AM on April 24, 2003

Um, the Nazi party was legitamitely elected. But yeah, Algeria is a better example, since Nazi Germany was about the most secular place on Earth.

Hell, if you wanted to be snarky, you could say Israel makes a good candidate for a totalitarian theocracy. But that's just stirring the pot.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:17 AM on April 24, 2003

This is the interesting bit. The war was really un-original as viewing, and a foregone conclusion holding little interest, despite the glamourising of the US/UK governments and their press colaborators. I mean, who hasn't seen a conflict on TV?
Rebuilding and 'democratising' Iraq, now there's something that I don't see every day.
Nor am I likely to.
posted by asok at 3:36 AM on April 24, 2003

I support religious freedom, but I have to say Saddam did the right thing banning this particular religious display. Do you think that the Bush administration would allow a religious parade in the US that involved slicing your head open repeatedly with a sword and smearing blood all over your face and body? It reminds me of some of the literal reenactments of Jesus on the cross that I have seen in latin america, where the Jesus character actually allows himself to be nailed to a cross. Ugh.

The things people do to themselves in the name of religion.
posted by sic at 3:37 AM on April 24, 2003

the Jesus character actually allows himself to be nailed to a cross

Well as long as they take precautions.
posted by biffa at 4:23 AM on April 24, 2003

Ah, sic, whilst I would also wonder at the motivation for such acts, I would caution against legislating against them.
Appart from the issue of 'banning religious practice', there are other factors.
I may consider piercing and tattooing to be mutilation, should that be legislated against?
Who says what is taboo?
posted by asok at 4:31 AM on April 24, 2003

Something similar happened in Turkey when the Islamists first won an election, if I recall.
Not really, or at least not substantially similar. The "islamists" in Turkey are of the quite moderate sort (think Christian Democrats in Europe). Indeed they seem to govern more democratically than previous "secular" Turkish governments who were pretty much under the strict control of the (very undemocratic) Turkish military. The world needs more "islamists" like Erdogan.
posted by talos at 5:44 AM on April 24, 2003

Um, the Nazi party was legitamitely elected.

Um, actually it wasn't. The Nazis lost every legitimate election they participated in. Hitler was appointed chancellor by Hindenburg. Here, read this:
After failing to take power by revolution, Hitler now decided that he would achieve his aims through elections. In 1928, the Nazis received less than one million votes out of thirty-one million and they only had 12 seats in the German parliament - the Reichstag. In 1930, the votes increased to six and a half million and the Nazis had 107 places in the Reichstag. A confident Hitler decided to run for president in 1932 against Field Marshall Paul von Hindenburg. Hindenburg, who was a national war hero, was up for reelection. But Hitler faced a stumbling block, since he was not a German citizen, he could not legally run for the presidency. He quickly solved this problem by having the Minister of the Interior of the state of Brunswick appoint Hitler as attaché of the legation of Brunswick. By becoming an attaché, Hitler automatically became a German citizen. Now the path was clear for him to run for the presidency. Hitler did not win the election, he only received 37% of the votes, Hindenburg was reelected.

Hitler was not elected into power, he was appointed Chancellor by president Hindenburg, and that was done as a last resort. Hitler was the last person in a virtual 'parade of Chancellors' that was appointed by Hindenburg, each one could not make a go of it. In May 1932, Hindenburg appointed Franz von Papen, a conservative aristocrat whom no one took seriously, as Chancellor but he was soon ousted by Kurt von Schleicher, the devious Defense Minister, who was then appointed Chancellor. Since Hitler was the only conservative politician to have power with the masses, Schleicher thought that he could use him and control him. Schleicher also wanted to stormtroopers to be connected to the army so that he could control them too. Hitler, however, could not be used; He wanted the Chancellorship and he flatly refused anything less. He would not share power with anyone or join any coalition government.
posted by languagehat at 8:20 AM on April 24, 2003

9 posts, 5 by y2karl

Monofilter: when the "main" contributor to a thread is the author.

And yet, when the posts and links are as good as y2karl's no one seems to mind the extra information.

Thanks y2karl and keep up the good work!
posted by nofundy at 9:24 AM on April 24, 2003

talos--I go to Google and type in Islamist party Turkey history. Third hit down is Turkey:History, a framed page with the Encyclopedia from the Orient entry, from whence the following was cut and pasted, added emphasis mine:
1993: Tansu Ciller of the True Path Party becomes the new prime minister.
1995: The Islamist Welfare Party becomes the largest party after the elections, making it hard for the other parties of Turkey to form a new government without having their support.
1996: A new government is constituted on an agreement between the True Path Party, and the Welfare Party. The leader of the Welfare Party, Necmettin Erbakan, becomes prime minister. The agreement between the two parties, involved that Ciller would become prime minister in 1998.
1997: Erbakan is forced to resign as prime minister in Turkey, after a long time campaign of the military forces. Mesut Yilmaz joins forces with Tansu Ciller, and forms a new government with himself as prime minister.
1998 January: Erbakan's Welfare Party is outlawed by the Turkish constitutional court.
— November 25: The government of Mesut Yilmaz falls, following the loss in an parliamentary vote of confidence. For the weeks that followed, Yilmaz continued to govern Turkey.
1999 January 17: Bülent Ecevit wins a confidence vote in the Turkish national assembly, getting the support of Tansu Ciller's True Path Party, as well as Mesut Yilmaz' Motherland Party.
This is to what I referred. It's nothing like the bloodbath involved in Algeria, but nevertheless, the military intervened in the political process--I hesitate to use the word democratic as to my understanding the political situation in Turkey is rather complex--and intervened quite dramatically. My shallow knowledge of the situation is derived from reading newspapers and magazines and my general sense of the current situation is that Turkey wants to join the European Union and therefore must be demonstrably democratic. I would suspect that the present government has an understanding with the Turkish military, who remain power brokers.

Additionally, I found the next entry down of value:

The Rise of the Islamist Movement in Turkey
These developments exacerbated tensions between the military and the Welfare Party, which had been building due to disagreement over the expulsion of Islamist officers from the army in December 1996, the Welfare Party's attempt to sign a defense cooperation agreement with Iran, Welfare's call for lifting the ban on head-covering for female university students and civil servants, the dispute over building a mosque at Istanbul's Taksim Square, the Iranian-inspired Jerusalem Night (January 31, 1997) in the Welfare-controlled Sincan district of Ankara where anti-regime slogans were shouted, and Erbakan's reluctance to endorse the National Security Council's February 28, 1997 meeting that called for curbing Islamist activities.

The Welfare Party's anti-democratic position on several issues also disappointed secular public opinion. For example, Erbakan and Justice Minister Sevket Kazan made critical and insulting comments about people who took part in the "One Minute of Darkness for Enlightenment" civil protest in February 1997. (22) Welfare's support for constitutional changes made some worry that it was trying to dilute the secular state. Women worried about the reduction of their rights. (23) The party's allegiance to democracy was also called into question. Islamist dailies including Akit and Yeni Safak were also severely critical of the January-February 1997 protest. Finally, there were many allegations (24) that the Welfare Party had connections with militant Islamist groups.

As a result, the tension between the military and the Welfare Party and the antagonism between the Islamists and secular public opinion escalated. This provided a legitimate framework to bring the Welfare Party to court in May 1997. Consequently, Erbakan was banned from politics and the Welfare Party was outlawed in January 1998 by the Constitutional Court on the grounds that it violated the principles of secularism and the law of the political parties. Moreover, on June 28, 1998, Erbakan was charged with defaming the Constitutional Court by saying that the Court's ruling had no historic value and would eventually rebound against those who had made it. (25) By dissolving the party, the ruling left more than 100 seats vacant in parliament and orphaned local administrations.
Obivously it was written from a pro-secularist point of view. However, I don't think tlChristian Democrats--that seems to even more an oversimplification to me than my idle but true remark must have seemed to you.

BBC's Timeline is interesting, too.
posted by y2karl at 9:50 AM on April 24, 2003

upon review--that was more like danderailfiter, nofundy, consider the source.
posted by y2karl at 10:03 AM on April 24, 2003

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan...
posted by homunculus at 11:59 AM on April 24, 2003

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