Leaflets: Bad Guys, Good Ideas

IraqSlogger scanned in and translated a leaflet from Baghdad that excoriated the Shiia as the Safavids and al-Qaeda as the Kharijites

The term Safawiyoun, or Safavids, a term used by militant Sunnis in derogatory reference to the Iraqi Shi’a. The term Khawarij is employed here to refer to extremist Sunni groups, especially those affiliated with al-Qa’ida.

The Safavid Empire was a 16th-to-18th-century political formation based in present-day Iran and including parts of current-day Iraq (and other areas surrounding Persia). Although it included at times much of what is now Iraq, the empire is seen as part of Iranian political history, and outside of Arab political tradition. Most importantly, the empire was closely associated with the spread of Shi’a Islam at the hands of the state.

By referring to the Iraqi Shi’a as Safavids, sectarian Sunnis are able to imply that Iraqi Shi’a are at the same time agents of Iran, premodern in their orientation, and interested in forcing the rest of Iraq to embrace Shi’ism. This slur is used very derogatorily among sectarian Sunnis.

The group authoring the leaflet reaches even farther back in Islamic history to refer to another set of its enemies as the Khawarij. The Khawarij (Singular, Khariji In English, literally, “those who exit” or “those who secede,” also known as “Kharijites” in some historical writing), were a group formed in the year 658, in the dispute over succession to leadership in the relatively early times of the Islamic political community. In the contest over community leadership between the supporters of ‘Ali (the forbears of the Shi’a tradition), and the supporters of Mu’awiya, the Khawarij “seceded” from the group supporting ‘Ali, essentially rejecting both men’s authority over the community.

The Khawarij in that time adopted radical methods to attempt to undermine the existing authorities in the Islamic community, including armed activities and assasssinations.

This focuses on the past. It is sadly typical in its careful nursing of a sense of victimization, resentment, and hatred to the point that these weak and childish emotions become not only personal obsessions but hereditary ones.

What is needed are more fliers and leaflets that communicate a positive, life affirming, murder opposing message to Iraqis. Something along these lines.

Who is making us unsafe?

  • Is it the Army?
  • Is it the Police?
  • Is it the Americans, so desperate to be loved by us?
  • They are not of our tribe or clan, but is al-Qaeda of our tribe?
  • No, they are from Arabia and cower in the Himalayas afraid of American soldiers.
  • Who then threatens us but criminals, brigands, corrupt politicians, murdering foreigners, and terrorists?
  • They take our hospitality, hide in our houses, and kill our neighbors, and run away when the neighbors fight back and kill us.
  • Are these good men or useless liars and mad-dog murderers?

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