“When they behead someone, they say ‘Allahu akbar,’ they read Koranic verse,” said a moderate Shiite sheik from Baghdad, using the phrase for “God is great.”
“The young people, they think that is Islam,” he said. “So Islam is a failure, not only in the students’ minds, but also in the community.”
A professor at Baghdad University’s School of Law, who identified herself only as Bushra, said of her students: “They have changed their views about religion. They started to hate religious men. They make jokes about them because they feel disgusted by them.”
That was not always the case. Saddam Hussein encouraged religion in Iraqi society in his later years, building Sunni mosques and injecting more religion into the public school curriculum, but always made sure it served his authoritarian needs.
Shiites, considered to be an opposing political force and a threat to Mr. Hussein’s power, were kept under close watch. Young Shiites who worshiped were seen as political subversives and risked attracting the attention of the police.
For that reason, the American liberation tasted sweetest to the Shiites, who for the first time were able to worship freely. They soon became a potent political force, as religious political leaders appealed to their shared and painful past and their respect for the Shiite religious hierarchy.
...Some Iraqis argue that the religious-based politics was much more about identity than faith. When Shiites voted for religious parties in large numbers in an election in 2005, it was more an effort to show their numbers, than a victory of the religious over the secular.
“It was a fight to prove our existence,” said a young Shiite journalist from Sadr City. “We were embracing our existence, not religion.”
It saddens me that young Iraqi minds were brainwashed and made to believe that killing Iraqis of the opposite sect, or of a different religion, would be rewarded in heaven. But are insurgents and young Iraqis recruited by terrorists really motivated by religion as much as they are by money?
'Of the 900 juvenile detainees in American custody in November, fewer than 10 percent claimed to be fighting a holy war, according to the American military. About one-third of adults said they were.
A worker in the American detention system said that by her estimate, only about a third of the adult detainee population, which is overwhelmingly Sunni, prayed."
“As a group, they are not religious,” said Maj. Gen. Douglas Stone, the head of detainee operations for the American military. “When we ask if they are doing it for jihad, the answer is no.”
Muath, a slender, 19-year-old Sunni with distant eyes and hollow cheeks, is typical. He was selling cellphone credits and plastic flowers, struggling to keep his mother and five young siblings afloat, when an insurgent recruiter in western Baghdad, a man in his 30s who is a regular customer, offered him cash last spring to be part of an insurgent group whose motivations were a mix of money and sect.
Muath, the only wage earner in his family, agreed. Suddenly his family could afford to eat meat again, he said in an interview last September.
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.
“The terrorist loves the money,” said Capt. Omar, a prison worker who did not want to be identified by his full name. “The money has big magic. I give him $10,000 to do small thing. You think he refuse?”
When Muath was arrested last year, the police found two hostages, Shiite brothers, in a safe house that Muath told them about. Photographs showed the men looking wide-eyed into the camera; dark welts covered their bodies.
Violent struggle against the United States was easy to romanticize at a distance.
“I used to love Osama bin Laden,” proclaimed a 24-year-old Iraqi college student. She was referring to how she felt before the war took hold in her native Baghdad. The Sept. 11, 2001, strike at American supremacy was satisfying, and the deaths abstract.
Now, the student recites the familiar complaints: Her college has segregated the security checks; guards told her to stop wearing a revealing skirt; she covers her head for safety.
“Now I hate Islam,” she said, sitting in her family’s unadorned living room in central Baghdad. “Al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army are spreading hatred. People are being killed for nothing.”
I think the overall message of the article underscores the importance of education and reviving the Iraqi economy:
'The population they [terrorist recruiters] focused on, however, was poor and uneducated. About 60 percent of the American adult detainee population is illiterate, and is unable to even read the Koran that religious recruiters are preaching.'