As rumors of war heat up, Saddam Hussein has intensified the public and unifying role of Islam in Iraq, reports the Toronto Star (Oct. 13).
Since the Gulf war of over a decade ago, Hussein has sought to build ties to the different Muslim groups and unify the country under a single, and loyal Islam, drastically challenging the secular socialist nature of his Baath Party rule. The country has long been divided between its Shiite majority (representing 60 percent of the population) and the ruling Sunni minority of Hussein, but it seems clear that he is attempting to create a united front against enemies, particularly the U.S.
Since the mid-1990s religious high schools, or madrassas, have flourished under Hussein’s “back to religion” campaign, and little distinction is made between Shiite and Sunni students. The same tolerance extends to intermarriage between Shiite and Sunnis. But some Shia still resent the Sunnis and Sadaam after the Iraq-Iran war and fear that the religious unity campaign may be an attempt to stamp out their religion and reinforce a Sunni dictatorship, reports Olivia Ward.
Helping to drive Saddam’s campaign is a fear of Islamic radicalism (from Saudia Arabia, for instance) destabilizing the government. But under the religious campaign, alcohol and gambling have been severely restricted and women are increasingly wearing the veil.