|"The war in Iraq is an attack on Islam"
Published: 10 August 2005
Briefing Number 152
|This Briefing challenges the
statement that the war in Iraq is an attack on Islam. This
argument misrepresents the facts, fuels terrorism, and is
a betrayal of the democratic aspirations of Muslims in Iraq
and elsewhere in the Middle East.
In 2003 the US, the UK and a coalition of smaller forces defeated
the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. At the time, and since,
it has routinely been claimed that the war constituted an “attack
on Islam”. Here are three reasons why this claim is false:-
Saddam Hussein’s regime murdered thousands of
Muslims: In the decades preceding the war, Saddam Hussein’s
regime murdered hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens. The
UN puts the figure above 300,000, and has uncovered many mass
graves. Most of these victims were Muslim. This slaughter was
only ended by the war, and had it not been for the US-led intervention,
the crimes of the former regime would probably still be continuing
The post-war “insurgency” has targeted
Muslim worshippers at mosques: Since 2003, dozens of
mosques in Iraq have been bombed by “insurgents”,
during or immediately after prayers. Hundreds of devout Muslim
worshippers – mostly shi’ite, some sunni - have
been murdered, indiscriminately, in Najaf, Karbala, Baghdad
and elsewhere. Thousands more have been injured and traumatised.
Muslim families and Muslim communities have been devastated.
The attackers have often been affiliated to Al-Qaeda; in some
cases have been disaffected foreign terrorist groups; and in
other cases have been “home-grown” Iraqi groups,
often sympathetic to the former Hussein regime.
These bombings are not designed to benefit the lives or human
rights of Iraqi Muslims. Their aim is to ruin the steps towards
democracy which Iraq is taking, and to plunge the country into
chaos, anarchy and a religiously-inspired bloody civil war.
The US-British efforts in Iraq – far from being an “attack
on Muslims” – are intended to thwart this campaign
of violence against Iraqi citizens, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.
The Iraqi election of January 2005 gave a democratic
voice to millions of Muslims: On January 31 2005, over
8,000,000 Iraqis – mostly Muslim men and women - voted
in the country’s first free elections. That election resulted
in a government which is broadly representative, and in which
the minority sunnis are slowly starting to increase their participation.
That Iraqi government gives a voice to Muslims, socially, politically
and religiously. It has asked the US, the British and the other
coalition forces to stay in Iraq, help build up the fledgling
democracy, and train Iraq’s own security forces in combating
the insurgency. Far from being a war against Islam, the war
has empowered millions of Muslim Iraqis for the first time in
their lives, and brought democratic opportunities – flawed
and vulnerable, but democratic nonetheless – to Iraq for
the first time.
The argument that the US and the British are “fighting
Islam” in Iraq is a grotesque misrepresentation. This
claim – too often uncritically repeated in the West -
fuels Islamist terrorism and encourages the views of groups
who behead journalists, shoot aid workers, and suicide bomb
Iraqi children collecting sweets.
Islamist fanaticism is driven by hatred of the West, and laced
with xenophobia and anti-semitism. The war in Iraq is not a
battle between the occupiers and the Iraqi people; it is a battle
between a fledgling democracy in the Muslim world, and those
who despise the very notion of democracy. To argue that the
US and British presence in Iraq is “against Islam”
and should be opposed is thus a betrayal of the Iraqi government
and people. It stifles the democratic aspirations of millions
of Muslims in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East.
It goes without saying that both the Israeli and the Palestinian
people have a long-term vested interest in seeing Islamist fanaticism
defeated in Iraq, and wherever else it manifests itself.