A Mind That Suits What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

Sunday, August 31, 2003 :::
There are reports now that the car that blew up part of the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf last week had been parked there for up to 24 hours, and was detonated by remote control. It is tempting to think that with, yes, more troops, we could have prevented this, but something else was working against us: our own skittishness.

In order to avoid offending Shi'ite sensibilities, our troops have stayed away from mosques. This may be admirable in intent, but a little shakey in concept.

For one thing, mosques are not holy in the way that Christian churches or Buddhist shrines are; however, they are revered. Which does not mean that Muslims are shy about attacking them, as should be obvious to anyone who remembers the radical attack within the confines of the holy city of Mecca some years back. Even the average literate tourist should know that, as the Parthenon in Athens was intact until 250 years ago, when it was a mosque. (Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire at the time.) One group of Muslims was fighting another. The one stored arms inside the Parthenon (i.e., inside a mosque), and the other, well aware of that, aimed a missile directly at it, igniting the whole mess and reducing it to the majestic ruin we know today. So, too, when the Saud family secured control of the Arabian peninsula and the Wahabi sect became dominant with them, they tore down two mosques they deemed too ornate.

And our concept of "holiness," when applied to the Muslim world, should be refined even further: preachers--often called "imams," which is a term that is very hard to define--are not priests. Islam has no priests. Moreover, Islam does in fact have at its core a political belief, that the world is divided between the "territory of Islam" (dar al-Islam) and "the territory of war" (dar al-Harb). Indeed, so entrenched is this concept that the lecterns in mosques have symbols on them indicating whether the mosque is in the dar-al-Islam, in a tolerant dar al-Harb country, or a jihad-worthy dar al-Harb enemy. So mosques are intrinsically political places.

That said, we should of course be careful about inflaming local sentiments, as the average Muslim appears to consider these sites "holy" in the way that we mean, and the belief is quite emotional. But does that mean that our boys could not be 100 yards away with super-tech binoculars, watching everything?

And so the relentless dripping of bad news from Iraq continues...

::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 11:20 AM



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