America has restored religious freedom—one of the basic rights on which the U-S was founded, and one we hold dear—to Iraq . But there are troubling signs already that it might not take hold in a country that isn’t used to the concept.
Almost a million pilgrims from around Iraq , Iran , and other countries are chanting, swaying, and even cutting their bodies in a ritual that was banned for decades under Saddam Hussein. These Shiite Moslems are converging on Karbala to a shrine honoring a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed. About two-thirds of Iraq ’s population is Shiite, but under Hussein, the minority Sunni branch of Islam’s faithful pulled all the strings and held most all the offices.
There are calls from Shiite leaders for a fundamentalist religion-based ( their religion, of course) government—similar to that imposed by the Mullahs (religious leaders) in Iran . Some of the pilgrims carried signs saying “Bush equals Saddam” and “Down (with the) U-S-A.” One cleric is calling for protests against what he calls “U-S domination.” Maybe not much yet, but the transition from the U-S-backed Shah of Iran to the Ayatollah Koumeni started small, too. What a shame if we win the war, but lose the peace.