Sunday, October 26, 2003

Dog day afternoon

Many people have been asking me about the Oil ministry incident last week. I also read a thread at LGF discussing the same subject, the thread contained many misconceptions and strange ideas which worried me. Riverbend has posted an entry describing the incident here.

The Oil ministry complex is one of the most heavily guarded buildings in Baghdad. It was the ONLY building protected from the looting and ransacking after April 9 along with a few presidential sites. It now houses 3 ministries together with the Oil ministry and hundreds of Iraqi employees work there. A friend who lives in that area told me what happened that day. The ministry employees were lining up in front of the complex waiting to be searched by IP and americans before entering the building to their offices. This is a daily and common process at all governmental offices, universities, large hospitals, banks, hotels, international NGO's, and public buildings. A necessary step to ensure that no trouble makers sneak inside among employees. I'm very thankful however that this isn't the case at the center I work at.

Anyway, the Americans have recently been using sniffer dogs to do their job, obviously to speed up the security checking. You can imagine how long it would take to search hundreds of civil servants each morning. A woman objected to the idea of a dog sniffing her handbag because she carried a small Quran in it. Not an uncommon thing, many women carry Qurans in their bags which gives them a sense of protection and safety.

At this point, some people say that the American soldier got aggresive and took the Quran from the bag and threw it on the ground and handcuffed the woman. Others say that didn't happen and they simply arrested the woman. Either case it was an unnecessary and irresponsible act. I'm sure even if that really happened, that the soldier was simply an unreligious guy and no other conspiracy theories are involved as some people have been saying. But, and this a big but, he should be more careful about insulting other peoples beliefs however ridiculous they may seem to him. This is a very sensitive issue for Iraqis.
I can only feel sorry for the poor woman. Imagining how she was feeling being handcuffed and humiliated in front of her colleagues. The solution would have been simply to ask the woman to take out her Quran from the bag, and to allow the dog to sniff it. Effective communication is the key here. I mean these people are your allies, why provoke them?

After that scene, the employees were enraged, they refused to be searched and grouped to form an anti-american demonstration in front of the ministry. IP officers threw their badges to the floor, saying we didn't join the force to be insulted this way. People were shouting 'Down America' and 'Down Bush'. The Americans shot a couple of bullets in the air to seperate the demonstrators and that was that. The Americans can thank God that those were educated people and supposedly allies. Otherwise I'm sure it would have been a different case. That was the story from what I've been told by a reliable friend.

By the way, I was at the Health ministry today for some business. I noticed while waiting in the line that there were Iraqi female FPS (I don't know what FPS exactly stands for, but they are security police guarding important facilities and buildings.) searching womens handbags. Now, couldn't they think of something like that before? Anyway, this was the first time for me to see Iraqi female police. I was impressed. We never had female police under Saddam. I imagined they would all be butch women or wearing scarfs or something like that. Actually they were very pretty. And I was wishing that I would get frisked by them as well, heh.

Anyway, back to doggies. What I want to mention as well, is that dogs are NOT considered unclean in Islam. There is nothing in the Quran that says so. There is a weak Hadith(saying) by Mohammed: "A house which has a dog or a picture in it is not entered or blessed by the Angels". By weak, I mean that its attribution to Mohammed is questionable, it has a weak 'Isnad'. Isnad is a term used by Muslim clerics to describe the generations of scholars mentioning the Hadith each from his predecessor. If the Isnad contains an unknown scholar or someone with a questionable authority, the Hadith is a weak one and should be doubted. Hope I made this clear, I'm not sure, these things are a bit hard to explain to non-muslims. Most educated Muslims today do not believe in most Hadiths. If they did, they would have to believe in some absurd ideas like a flat earth, magic, misogyny, stoning adulterers to death,..etc.
So people noticing these inconsistencies have decided to rely solely on the Quran (however they choose to ignore similar contradictions or ideas in it because its supposedly 'flawless'). Okay I know I'm going to be flogged for saying the above. Send your hate mail.

Many Iraqis have dogs as pets. My aunt, a very religious woman, had a cute Pekingese. My grandmother on the other hand was appalled by the poor thing. My cousins have a couple of hunting dogs. A friend of mine has a bulldog. And lets not forget Uday's sadistic fascination with dogs, the ones he used to feed with people. So it's very common actually. And it's not true that we regard them as unclean or anything like that. Maybe some fools do, but I can't say I comprehend their logic.