Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Maliki should lead reconciliation effort

It's a tad embarrassing (but not all that surprising) to see top Shia politicians in Iraq unwilling to reconcile with Sunni Arabs in government. The Shia in government may not fully trust Sunni Arab politicians, who were for decades dominant in Iraqi politics and have since the fall of the dictator tried in many ways to get back on top, but Maliki and his Da3wa should at least offer an olive branch to Iraq's Sunni Arabs, even if it has to be in the form of Parliamentary seats. Even if ousted Baathists gain power they do not deserve, the Iraqi Shia and Kurds together will have a clear majority in Parliament. So why all the squabbling? I wish the Shia in power would just reconcile with Hashemi and get this over with, and I think Maliki would do himself a favor by encouraging the Shia in Parliament to make some concessions and get the election law passed. Even vote during Arba3een - why is that such a problem?

While hashing out the details of an engagement to an Iraqi girl a couple of years ago, she told me the engagement cannot take place during Arba3een. She is secular, but her family is not. I was surprised and asked my parents what the fuss was about. They informed me that religious Shia do not get engaged or wed during Arba3een, the 40 days of pilgrimage and other observations that religious Shia do after Ashura, the tenth day of Muharram. It's supposed to be a time of mourning, not happiness. I find these rules to be annoying and rather silly, but I try to respect Shia who observe them, and I can understand why they insist on having the freedom to observe Arba3een in Iraq after it was outlawed by Saddam for so many years. But how far should we allow religion to interfere with government?

The Iraqi Shia must solve their political problems so that Iraqi Sunni Arabs will be fully united with them. Only then they can effectively defeat the extremists who continue to attack Iraqis in the most violent ways. Sunni extremists, the truly irreconcilable, continue to attack fellow Sunnis for cooperating with government. We must support the Sunnis who support Iraqi democracy.

Hashemi has shown leadership by encouraging marriages between Shia and Sunna in Iraq. What has Maliki done? Be a leader, Mr. Maliki. Act like every month is Muharram (no fighting), and don't allow religious holidays to interfere with Iraq's constitution. Stop crying and stop embarrassing your fellow Shia. Parliament should work, even on their religious holidays, to get the election law passed. Iraqis have bigger things to worry about, like soccer.

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