Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly

Sectarianism in Iraq: The Making of State and Nation since 1920

Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly

Sectarianism in Iraq: The Making of State and Nation since 1920

Article excerpt

Khalil F. Osman. Sectarianism in Iraq: The Making of State and Nation since 1920. London and New York: Routledge, 2015. 343 pages. Hardback $145.00

In Sectarianism in Iraq: The Making of State and Nation since 1920, Khalil F. Osman traces the problem of sectarianism between the Sunni and Shi'a Muslims in Iraq to its historical roots during the formation of the modern state of Iraq. He argues that when the European powers of Britain and France were dividing the spoils of the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of World War I, they did not take into consideration the existing "primordial sectarian affiliations" of the various ethnicities on the ground. The creation of what came to be known as the modern homogeneous state of Iraq has camouflaged the "contradictory and divergent" concepts of what it means to be Iraqi. Whereas the presumably secular regime of Saddam Hussein excluded Shi'ite minority in pre-2003, he adds, the post-2003 government has nurtured anti-Sunni feelings. Both policies and practices of exclusion and marginalization of majority and minority ethnicities demonstrate the embedded primordial affiliations within the Iraqi socio-political landscape. This, according to Osman, has not only impeded the integration project of a unified Iraqi nation-state. But it has also been the root cause of the civil war that ensued during the American invasion and which continues to plague the country since then.

Filling the gap in the scholarship about Iraq, Sectarianism in Iraq is comprised of six chapters with an introduction and two appendixes. The six chapters are titled as follows: "A Theoretical Excursus: Sectarianism and the Modern Nation-State in the Arab East"; "The Legacy of History: Nation-Building, Marginalization and Ascendance of Primordial Sectarianism"; "Elite Makeup and the Politics of Stratification"; "Education, Resistance, and the Reproduction of Primordial Sectarian Identity"; "Contending Vision of Collective Identity"; and "Sectarianism and the Crisis of the Modern Nation-State in Iraq. …

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