The New York Times is reporting that the five years of insane sectarian violence and bloodshed in Iraq is becoming too much for a lot of the youth. Far from the monolithic, militant, violent force that everyone seems to want to believe, the Iraqi youth are turning away from the fundamentalist crazy clerics.
While religious extremists are admired by a number of young people in other parts of the Arab world, Iraq offers a test case of what could happen when extremist theories are applied. Fingers caught in the act of smoking were broken. Long hair was cut and force-fed to its wearer. In that laboratory, disillusionment with Islamic leaders took hold.
It is far from clear whether the shift means a wholesale turn away from religion. A tremendous piety still predominates in the private lives of young Iraqis, and religious leaders, despite the increased skepticism, still wield tremendous power.
It’s an interesting take on the situation in Iraq. It seems like an almost universal characteristic of teenagers that they feel disenfranchised with the current state of affairs. It’s even more of a dramatic situation in Iraq, where the youth are the primary targets of both security forces and Islamic clerics. These youth have a chance to earn some money by following the clerics, which is often the initial incentive to joining these groups. Money rules all in a lot of these situations, and according to the NYT, it even explains why the insurgent groups choose to behead their hostages:
Indeed, at least part of the religious violence in Baghdad had money at its heart. An officer at the Kadhimiya detention center, where Muath was being held last fall, said recordings of beheadings fetched much higher prices than those of shooting executions in the CD markets, which explains why even nonreligious kidnappers will behead hostages.
What I think is the most fascinating aspect of all of this is the fact that parents are so concerned:
In Falluja, a Sunni city west of Baghdad that had been overrun by Al Qaeda, Sheik Khalid al-Mahamedie, a moderate cleric, said fathers now came with their sons to mosques to meet the instructors of Koran courses. Families used to worry most about their daughters in adolescence, but now, the sheik said, they worry more about their sons.
It’s pretty crazy to think that parents have to be especially careful of their sons these days. But in a weird way, it’s nice to know that so many people are doing their best to try and make Iraq a little safer. Obviously it’s a pretty shitty situation overall, and no one is going to argue that it’s going well, but even the hardest-nosed neocon or the most liberal anti-war activist is going to have to admit that there is no possibility of success in Iraq without the support of the people.