Ahmed H. al-Rahim — A Perspective on Islam in Iraq
March 4, 2004

The religious landscape of Iraq is complex and somewhat enigmatic to the western world. Nearly 97% of Iraq's 25 million people are Muslim, and a majority of Iraqis are Shiite rather than Sunni. What does that mean? And how powerful is the prominent cleric Ayatollah Ali al Sistani who has effectively challenged the American-led coalition. Could he become another Islamic revolutionary like Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini?

As part of Iraq's rebuilding process, the Iraqi governing council agreed on an interim constitution that cites Islam as a source — but not the primary source — of future legislation. Approval of the interim constitution was delayed first by violence, and then by a group of Shiite council members who raised objections to elements within it. Host Krista Tippett speaks at length with Iraqi-American professor and advisor, Ahmed al-Rahim, for insight into the unfolding new relationship between mosque and state in Iraq.

(AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

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Mosque and State in Iraq

Read Amitai Etzioni's essay "Mosque and State in Iraq" that was published in the October & November 2003 issue of Policy Review. Amitai Etzioni is a University Professor at George Washington University and author of the autobiography My Brother's Keeper: A Memoir and a Message as well as From Empire to Community: A New Approach to International Relations.

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Shiite Muslims weep as one of them reads aloud the tragic story of the martyr Imam Hussein, inside the compound of the Imam Hussein shrine in recognition of the Ashura holy days, in the the holy Shiite city of Karbala, Iraq.

(AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

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Ahmed H. al-Rahim

has taught Classical Arabic language and literature at Harvard University and is presently a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Virginia.

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