Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi recently told the Iraqi Shiites that they must understand that Iraq is for all the Iraqi people and it fits them all.
We hope this sophisticated call succeeds as this will be good for Iraq, the Iraqis and Iraq’s neighbors. This would be tantamount to victory for the human inside every Iraqi.
It’s as if the Iraqis are realizing their religious, sectarian and national diversity now! History has always narrated how people co-existed in Iraq since ancient times.
An example to that is what Priest Anastas Al-Karmali, or Boutros Awwad as this is his original name, wrote about Iraq.
A pioneering figure
Karmali was a Christian priest born to a Lebanese father and an Iraqi mother from Baghdad. He was a master of Arabic language and one of the most prominent scholars in history and literature as well as pioneering figure in Iraqi journalism.
It’s as if the Iraqis are realizing their religious, sectarian and national diversity now! History has always narrated how people co-existed in Iraq since ancient times. An example to that is what Priest Anastas Al-Karmali, or Boutros Awwad as this is his original name, wrote about Iraq.Mashari al-Thayidi
When he passed away in 1947 aged 80, author Ahmad Hamid al-Sarraf lamented him saying:
In our country which existed for ages,
Our mosques were near our churches
The people will live in unity
Where priests in caps stand by clerics in turbans
I recently read Karmali’s book “A history of Iraq” which students in Iraq are supposed to read for school. While talking about Haroun al-Rashid, the fifth and most prominent Abbasid caliph, he said: “Sports and intellectual games are two things which Haroun introduced to the world of civilization. Foreign kings from different countries followed suit. Today, all civilized people in foreign countries have followed suit as well. Rashid was the first caliph to play with the wand in the field. He practiced archery and played birjas, i.e. archery from horseback, and he played with the ball. Englishmen fell in love with these games. Many became very skilled at them and sought to win prizes in playing these games that Rashid mastered and they also wanted to attract Rashid’s attention. Rashid was also the first one to play chess from among the Abbasids, and he was the first one to play backgammon. The people called these blossoming and rich days ‘the days of the bride’.”
O God bless the days of the bride!
In a sad chapter about the Mongol invasion of Iraq, Karmali wrote: “You know that a country that does not rest will not have the chance to trade or to sell or to work in agriculture or in manufacturing. It will thus become poor. If a country becomes poor, its people will invade each other’s lands to live. The strong will take what the weak has. The country will thus decline and its people will be humiliated. They will decrease in number if not become extinct. All this is due to the scourge of ignorance where decadent people reject sophistication and do not want to owe a wise and reasonable man to show them the truth which is clear even with the smallest amount of observation.”
I hope today’s leaders of Iraq listen to the advice of Karmali, the wise priest of Baghdad.
The article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat.
Saudi journalist Mshari Al Thaydi presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Al Thaydi has published several papers on political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and terrorists.