Can Iraq Separate Religion and State?

By Wassim Bassem for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Several groups appear to be vying to control Iraqis' social lives and liberties: organized crime, religious factions and even armed security forces. Motives range from money to fundamentalism, but the situation calls for governance where armed parties and factions are no longer allowed to meddle in social affairs.

On Jan. 25, flyers calling for bans on singing and makeup were plastered throughout Baghdad on cement barricades, near security checkpoints and on the walls of the Zora Gardens that families in Baghdad frequent. This seemed to be an organized campaign against liberties, and it led to great controversy in the media, social networking sites and Iraqi society as a whole.

Questions abounded about the motives of said campaign and what party stood behind it. However, the perpetrators’ failure to identify themselves does not mean they were unknown to most Iraqis: They are supposedly religious conservatives who treat with disdain any ideas not in line with their views.

In his personal blog on Jan. 22, author and academic Taisir Abduljabbar al-Alousi profiled those responsible as “religiously extremist factions that exploit Islam to suppress rights, freedoms and marginalize civil [secular] movements.”

Some incidents are also perpetrated by security forces charged with enforcing the law and protecting liberties under the constitution. On July 20, a video clip emerged showing a security force storming night clubs in Baghdad, an act that led — along with similar such incidents — to widespread condemnation on the part of civil movements and leftist parties.

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