Program Particulars: A Perspective on Islam

Program Particulars

*Times denoted refer to web version of audio

(01:30) Attacks on Holy Shiite Ritual

In her opening remarks, Krista refers to the holy day of Ashura, a day of fasting for Muslims that's observed on the 10th day of the first month of the Islamic year. Originally designated in 622 CE by Muhammad, a fracture between Jewish and Muslim communities left the fast as a voluntary observance, as it has remained among the Sunnis.

» Enlarge the image Source: Global Security.org

Source: Global Security.org

Among the Shiites, Ashura is a major festival commemorating the death of Hussein, grandson of Muhammad in the late 7th century in Karbala. It is a solemn day, including a pilgrimage to Karbala, where passion plays are presented with many taking part in mourning rituals.

(02:47) History and Statistics About Iraq

Approximately 97 percent of Iraq's 25 million people are Muslim. Although Sunnis account for approximately 90 percent of the world's Muslim population, Iraq's Sunni Arabs comprise only about 15 - 20 percent of the population, while Iraqi Shiites make up nearly 60 percent.

(04:35) Actuality of BBC Report

In 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini led the Islamic Revolution that toppled the American-backed Shah of Iran, who died in exile in 1980. Listen to the entire BBC report of that event.



Ayatollah Khomeini escorted by military officers upon his return to Iran. (Courtesy: The National Security Archive)

Ayatollah Khomeini escorted by military officers upon his return to Iran. (Courtesy: The National Security Archive)

(05:23) City of Najaf

During his fourteen years of exile, Ayatollah Khomeini resided in the Iraqi city of Najaf, a city rich with religious history and home of the Imam Ali Mosque.

(09:10) Reference to Naqshbandia

Rahim speaks about the Naqshbandia — named after Baha al-Din Naqshband — a growing Sufi order that is primarily Sunni.

Image of Iraqi flag

Image of Iraqi flag

(11:25) Phrase on Iraqi Flag

Rahim talks about how Saddam Hussein wanted to use religion for his advantage. One way was by placing an Islamic phrase at the center of the Iraqi national flag:

Allahu Akbar (God is Great)

(18:10) Grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini

Rahim refers to Hussein Khomeini, who has called for an invasion of Iran by the United States. Christopher Hitchens interviewed the junior cleric for an article in Slate (October 6, 2003), touching upon issues of democracy and Islam in Iraq and the status of the extremist Muqtada al-Sadr.

(20:22) Monarchy in Iraq

Rahim tells Krista that Iraqis tend to be nostalgic about the former monarchy in Iraq, which was overthrown in 1958. A movement exists to create a constitutional monarchy where the cousin of King Faisal II, Sharif Ali Bin AlHussein, would rule.

(23:05) Reference to Grand Ayatollah 'Ali al-Sistani

Krista refers to the leading cleric in Iraq, Ayatollah 'Ali al-Sistani, who issued has become a defining voice in the formation of a new Iraqi government. Sistani comes from a quietist tradition — a conscious distancing of oneself from politics — but reserves the right to critique political and social events.

(28:08) Reference to Muqtada al-Sadr

Krista references the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who is one of the strongest proponents of establishing a theocracy in Iraq. In the program, Rahim says that eventually his voice will be drowned as efforts proceed in creating a Iraqi democracy. Read a transcript of the 60 Minutes II interviews with Sadr and Khomeini.

(34:30) Cleric Referred to by Rahim

When Krista asked about other religious leaders who could play a role in Iraq's future, Rahim mentioned Sayyid Ayad Jamal al-Din as a promising Shiite voice. In an op-ed piece Dinner With the Sayyids (August 10, 2003) in the New York Times, Thomas Friedman agrees that Jamaleddine (variant spelling of Jamal al-Din) and Khomeini are two spiritual leaders whose voices need be heard.

(48:50) Excerpt of Etzioni Essay

Krista reads from the Amitai Etzioni's essay Mosque and State in Iraq that was published in the October & November 2003 issue of Policy Review:

The United States, in Iraq and elsewhere, should cease promoting a secular civil society as the only alternative to a Taliban-like Shia theocracy. We cannot quell the religious yearnings of millions of Iraqis (and many others elsewhere) merely by fostering strong political and economic institutions and the sound values they embody — to wit, democracy and capitalism. The most effective way to counter a theocracy is to include moderate, liberal religious elements in the civil society we are helping to erect. The First Amendment's disestablishment clause is not a foreign policy tool, but a peculiarly American conception. Just because the American government is banned from promoting religion within the United States does not mean that the State Department and the Pentagon cannot promote religion overseas in societies that are undergoing profound societal changes. This last point is crucial: Overseas we are participating as a key architect and builder of new institutions; we are in what social scientists call 'the design business.' This is quite distinct from what we do at home: shoring up a solid social structure designed two centuries ago, careful not to rock the foundations or undermine the pillars on which it stands. In Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other Third World countries, we participate in the ground-breaking, foundation-laying stage, one in which elements we can take for granted at home — such as a thriving religious life within civil society — must be provided.

Amitai Etzioni is a University Professor at George Washington University and author of the autobiography My Brother's Keeper: A Memoir and a Message (Rowman & Littlefield, 2003). Amitai Etzioni's book From Empire to Community: A New Approach to International Relations, in which a version of this essay appears, will be published by Palgrave Press in April, 2004.

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Ahmed H. al-Rahim

has taught Classical Arabic language and literature at Harvard University and is presently a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Virginia.