Here we go again. It seems that, in the current post-election environment in Iraq, the United States is pulling for "secularism," whatever that means. In the Islamic world, this quickly leads to hard questions, such as: Is Allah in favor of "secularism"? Is "secularism" the opposite of "Islam"? Can one be a "secular" Muslim, in the current faith-charged reality of the Middle East? Is a "moderate" Muslim the same thing as a "secular" Muslim?
Just asking. I could go on and on.
Meanwhile, over here, most Americans -- or, at least, those who support the war -- would say that we are fighting for "freedom," the "rule of law" and similar concepts. But does this equal "secularism"? Does any of this square with the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and that tricky Article 18 that insists on saying that:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
I thought of all of this while struggling to understand the story by reporter Borzou Daragahi in the Los Angeles Times, the one with the pair of headlines that said: "Sunnis Bargain for Iraq Role as Allawi Fades: Ascendant Shiites and Kurds hint that a deal to form a new governing coalition may exclude the U.S.-favored secular politician."
Try to follow the labels through the following maze. There are plenty of words that imply faith connections or anti-connections. I have, for some time now, been saying that I wish that MSM journalists would take the time to give us some info on how these terms that sound religious actually relate to religious beliefs and practices. Then we can talk about how these words relate to "religious liberty" and other idealistic concepts that many people insist are "Western" and, thus, "secular."
Hang on. This gets complicated. And confusing.
The emerging political alliance lumps together Shiites, Kurds and Islamist Sunni Arabs -- and excludes secular Iraqis, hard-core Sunni Arab nationalists and those sympathetic to the Baath Party of ex-dictator Saddam Hussein. After all but enacting a cease-fire around the recent elections, Iraq's mostly Sunni Arab insurgents have escalated their bombings and assassinations targeting officials of the Shiite-dominated government, U.S. troops and foreigners in Iraq.
Got that? It sure doesn't sound like "secularism" is on the rise, does it? Come to think of it, would the White House say that the purpose of this war to sell "secularism" to the Islamic world?
Just asking. I don't think that is a winning proposition.
Has anyone seen a story that helps explain the faith content of all of this?