Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas in Iraq 

What person of good will -- regardless of religion -- cannot take pleasure in the first ever public Christmas celebration in Iraq? It is a measure of Iraq's commitment to stay together as a country that its government, which will soon enough face the voters again, has sponsored such an unlikely event. The picture of Santa Claus in the Iraqi flag is remarkable, to say the least.

Naturally, I cannot resist a few observations that will annoy everybody.

First, this is another nail in the coffin of the profoundly misguided proposal that Iraq ought to break into three or more pieces. Some reporter somewhere needs to extract a confession of error from Joe Biden, among others. Since he will probably be on television this morning, why not start with this story?

Second, "multiculturalism," or at least the institutional respect and acceptance of religious minorities, has its virtues. Conservatives who deride multiculturalism ought to remember this, and then consider that their objection is not so much to the principle of it as the silly excesses. (Iraq, obviously, has a long way to go before its multiculturalism becomes "excessive.") Our most strident hawks might remember that the next time they go non-linear over some bank making a sharia-compliant loan.

Third, this sort of exercise is all about social compromise. On the one hand, Christianity and Islam are theoretically incompatible. If you believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, then you must believe that Mohammad was either deranged or lying, sad to say. I really see no way for a genuine, believing Christian to think otherwise. But -- and this is crucially important -- there ought and indeed must be room for a generous politesse in the interactions between religions. Just because we think the other religion is fraudulent does not mean that we need to say so. Nor does it preclude us from being interested in the traditions and practices of other religions. Yes, it is easier and more principled, at a superficial level, to resolutely demand fidelity to one's own faith. Social peace, however, requires otherwise. Iraqis seem to be learning the lesson well.

CWCID: Maggie's Farm and Glenn Reynolds.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Dec 22, 12:29:00 PM:

I hope everything you say is true, TH, but a Christmas celebration in a public park, ringed by security and complete with Santa and a tree, strikes me as a PR stunt for Western consumption. I have read article after article over the last 5 years about Christians being killed or driven from Iraq. I don't think there are many left.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Mon Dec 22, 12:46:00 PM:

On the other hand, in how many Arab Muslim countries does such a celebration occur, PR stunt or not?

When it comes to government actions, symbolism matters. Maybe some of the Christians will return after seeing this. After all, nothing blew up.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Dec 22, 02:08:00 PM:

The Iraqi people seem to be more accepting than most give them credit for. Michael Yon wrote about Muslims and Christians coming together to reopen a Christian Church back in November 2007 http://www.michaelyon-online.com/thanks-and-praise.htm
The photo is a moving one.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Dec 23, 09:47:00 AM:

I also wonder if this received any coverage in Iraq and the rest of the Muslim world? Did al-Jazeera pick it up? Did the people of Kirkuk, Mosul and Tikrit hear of it? Will Iraqi politicians go home to their constituents and say, 'How do you like that Christmas celebration we put on in Baghdad?' Just some feeble minded questions.  

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