I just finished reading a story on the execution of one Atwar Bahjat, an Iraqi journalist who was half Sunni and half Shiite. I suppose that would make her a whole muslim, and an enemy to most in a country where Sunni and Shiite seem intent to hate each other.
Apparently Atwar, a mere 30 years old, had made many enemies within the confines of that turbulent country by doing what many more Iraqis will have to do to make Iraq viable; she cared. Atwar had set out to show the depravity that had gripped her homeland. Perhaps she exposed the evil to the light in the hope of causing it to whither. Perhaps it was to condemn those who were depraved. In any case, the depravity and evil focused its view onto her, and pursued her with a vengeance.
Reading the details of her demise was very troubling. From the details of the video of her torture that has been recovered, the mention of a partial and then complete throat slitting, drill holes throughout her body, and eventually a beheading, one who has even a shred of humanity can only weep silently in dismay at the level to which some in this world can sink to.
I believe the atrocity that was performed on Miss Bahjat is an indicator. It indicates that those who oppose freedom, love, and tolerance are fearful of losing their grip on what was once easy ground to hold. Instead of embracing this Saddamless time as a new beginning, they are intent on seizing the wealth and fortunes of the people of Iraq for themselves. I believe that this heinous crime was also an indicator at the threat that some felt from Atwar. As a dedicated journalist determined to see a new Iraq born from the ashes, she certainly was a voice opposed to the men who sleep with evil.
Able to silence the reporter, those responsible for her demise are not able to silence her last aired thoughts. “Whether you are a Sunni, a Shi’ite or a Kurd, there is no difference between Iraqis united in fear for this nation.”
All of that brings me, finally, to reflect on the point of this column. When those who believe in love, justice, and freedom with such purpose come to an end such as this, is it an indicator that things are changing or that they will never do so?
Part of me wants to believe that all of the death, suffering, and bloodshed has been issued as payment for a coming period of peace and prosperity. It would be good to think that the evil is being stepped up in a last desperate bid to reclaim lost ground and to prevent the loss of any more.
But part of me sees the situation with eyes that have dimmed with the gained knowledge of the deeds of man. It seems that after a while, it takes a concerted effort to let such stories affect one’s self. We eventually learn how to turn off the horror of some of the things that we hear. We need to shut it off to preserve what little sanity we possess, but sometimes we do so to our own detriment.
The part of me that is disconcerted says that perhaps we should simply build a wall around Iraq and let them all go at it. Perhaps when one side is victorious, there will be peace. Of course this is simply foolish and a desperate attempt to stop caring about a people who will probably never cross my path during my life’s journey.
Why then does Iraq matter? Is there any hope in preventing open war within a country where there are so many opposing factions, and so many people who seem intent on their own destruction as well as for everyone around them? Is it militarily or politically possible to have Iraq run as a democratic nation?
I think that we are now seeing the answers to those questions. I think that we may have overlooked one of the most basic and fundamental requirements for a democracy to flourish. That is love.
While we, as free people, yearn to see others experience the freedoms that we hold so dear, there are other forms of thought on this planet. Not all people have our values, and not all people, even ordinary citizens, believe that blanket freedom is prosperous for a nations soul. To be sure, our own freedoms have led our culture to greatness, but they also sometimes lead to its failures.
Am I opposing freedom? Of course not, but perhaps we should begin to consider that not everybody wants what we do.
We must also consider the words of John Adams, the second president of the United States. “Our constitution is made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” To most, it would also be apparent that he was referring to those who espoused the Christian philosophies of love and forgiveness, and not Islamic or any other religious principles.
The United States, Canada, and most other great nations work because we, the citizens of those countries, have learned to have love for our neighbour, forgiveness for our enemies, and tolerance of those who are different. In places like Iraq, these qualities are in as short a supply as water in a desert.
Forgiveness is a mute point. Centuries of bitter feuding between Sunnis and Shiites continues to ravage not only Iraq, but most of the world. Kurds, having their wealth and status removed by several regimes, and having faced vicious cultural reprisals at the hands of Saddam’s henchmen. are no doubt a little incensed as well. For certain, there are hundreds of other divisive issues which I have no understanding of, but they are there.
Tolerance is as vacant as forgiveness. Generation after generation is brought up to hate us, the West, and to hate Jews, Christians, and all of those other Iraqis that do not fall into the rigid definitions of one group or another.
Love lives everywhere. Of course Iraqi’s love their children, but that love is measured in different ways than in our land. As well, Muslims are not taught to love all of their neighbours as equals. By decree, a Christian or Jew or any non-Muslim is less than they are. In some sects, they are to be vanquished. Hardly a recipe for co-existence and prosperity.
While so many problem co-exist together, and with no concrete plan that can effectively deal with this self-defeating lot, can we, as the civilized world, force others to hold our value system dear?
I suppose that I am sounding a little like a defeatist, and I mean not to. I believe that our motives in many parts of the world are just. I also believe that after time, a whole lot of time, that our love will eventually reach many. We must, however, keep our motives and our intentions intact. Our purpose should be crystal clear.
But after a while, one simply wonders if things will ever change. Until we know for sure, we must continue the assault on the evil that would envelope us all should we allow it to.
I pray that there will be many who rise up to replace the void left by Atwar Bahjat.