The Iraq culture is significant in the world’s cultural history. It is based on Mesopotamian civilization an important influence to early civilization especially in Asian and Europe. In the Middle Ages Iraq referred to an Arab province situated at the Southern half of the present Iraq. Iraq’s state religion is Islamic with a high population of Arab and Kurds cultural groups. However there are some minorities’ ethnic groups which include the Jewish, Yazidi, Chaldean, Turkoma, Armenian and Assyrian. Her population is estimated at around 22,675,617 people by 2000. Its capital city is Baghdad. Iraq official language is Arabic. It includes other languages; the Kurdish, Armenian, Turkic, Aramaic and Persian. It has a rich heritage preserved in its poets, painters and sculptors. Their staple food is rice and soup or sauce. They celebrate occasions and sometimes sacrifice goats or lamb in this celebrations. They have traditional music with instruments like the flutes, violins, tambourines, ouds and drums. Children must undergo rights of passage in reading Quran and circumcision. They are polygamous and they value birth and marriages. They have respect for the authority and rely on the aged for advices. Iraqis are generous especially in Ramadan season. Economically they are rich in oil which they trade it for food. Their social stereotype depends of ethnicity and caste system. Iraq is a democratic republic with the president being the highest organ. It has distinct roles assigned to every family and member of the society depending on the gender. In comparisons to the United States’ culture, there some similarities and differences in social roles, religion, politics, economy and other cultural heritages. However, the essence of culture in any society is an identity which should not be a base of unethical treatment from dominating groups. Cultural diversity is mankind strength and an understanding of this would make us realize our full potential independently.
In this paper, I seek to explore the Iraq culture and their problems in the following components; social roles and structures, religion, Language, cultural heritages, economic and political images. I will further compare and contrast the Iraq culture with that of the United States and in concluding, I will suggest some measures important in solving the cultural problems any society undergoes including that of Iraq.
Iraq is a multicultural community dominated by the Arabs who are about ¾ of the general population. The Kurds community is second largest with one fifth of the general population. Other minority groups and who compose the rest of the population include the Armenian, Assyrian, Chaldean, Jewish, Yazidi and Turkoman. This cultural diversity has come up with some shortcomings like civil wars. The majority Arabs are divided into two groups; the Shias and Sunnis. Over the years, their relation has been shaky over their difference in views. On the other hand, the Kurds and the Arabs have had confrontations creating a survivalist mentality to the Kurds. The Turkomans have also conflicted with the Kurds. They occupy the Northern part and have a role in history as a burrier between Kurd and Arabs. The Arabs have tried to control the minority ethnics and this has also led to battles. Their relationship with their neighbors; Iran, Syria, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia has also been shaky of course the worst being the Iran. Iraqis Shias and the Persians of Iran are traditionally enemies. This enmity led to the 1980s Iraq-Iran war over dispute of land. This worsened their relationship with even other world communities aligned to Iran including the United States. While it is true that they have had all these confrontations, all these communities are naturally loyal to their country. In addition they have assimilated structurally, socially and almost in all areas of their daily lives. These ethnic groups have their own stratosphere which is comprised of classes and castes system. There are the rich and the poor. Most of the rich hold positions in the government. This economic and political crisis has caused poverty to some of its citizens. (Pientanza, 2007)
Most of Iraq’s families are based on Islamic culture. They are polygamous and arranged marriages were common in the past though this trend have faded with urbanization. Family role in choosing a spouse for a man is fading especially in urban settings. Inter-community marriages are not restricted currently but in the past. Divorce is allowed but its independent from government intervention. Windowed women can also remarry. Kin groups are crucial units than the ethnic groupings. Despite the element of modernization, family loyalty is emphasized. The elderly people have a role to guide the rest of the family. The family settings are either extended or nuclear. In these units, there is cooperation and sharing of duties and roles. The family has a role in educating their children, child rearing and other roles as may be assigned by the community. On the other hand, the society at large has a role over the family and its members. The roles of women and men are distinct. Iraq is a gender insensitive society with men dominating women. They dominate property and in inheritance, they acquire double what a woman is supposed to get. Women hold some junior positions with the senior posts dominated by men.
Women generally work in unskilled labor while in specialized positions, they work for the children. Further, men have the priority to marry many wives, divorce or inherit. Women have most of the domestic duties like cooking, infant care, cleaning among others. Boys are celebrated at birth but girls are not. Unfortunately they are seen as dependent while the boys are valuable. Girls are limited to freedom at puberty than boys. In their upbringing, primarily chastity is emphasized. Girls are socialized to obey authority while boys to dominate. School plays a significant role in value teaching which includes religion, civic education, socialism, unity and economic security. They have a role in shaping an individual behavior. In the past, they have been accused of subjecting students to violent views like spying. Iraq emphasize on education though less is being done about it. There are several universities dominated by male students. The literacy rate is fairly though much needs to be done. Generally, the Iraq community has respect for one another. Children are socialized to love and be generous to one another. They should respect the elderly and avoid being loud. It is the role of every Iraq to respect one another. (Pientanza, 2007)
Religion is an important component of Iraq’s culture. It has a high influence on the social and political setting of the Iraq people. Islamic dominates Iraq and is the states religion with a 95% of the general population. There are some traces of Christianity, Zoroastrianism and Paganism. The Shias and Sunnis differ in their Islamic beliefs and which has evolved to two forms of Muslim in Iraq. Sunnis form is the traditional Islamic religion. The minority religions in the past have been victims of persecution by the Islamic majority. Basically Muslim believes in Allah the only God, Muhammad as His prophet, prayers and thanksgiving, fasting and pilgrimage to Mecca. They gather in mosques where Imams lead the services. Their holy book is Quran. They observe a month of Ramadan dedicated to oneself purity and goodness to others for the sake of Allah. The Christian communities believe in one God and Jesus Christ as the Messiah. They gather in churches on Sunday for thanksgiving and prayers. Bishops leads the services. They celebrate the Christmas festival towards the end of every year. On contrary, Islam’s Ramada falls in the 9th month of their calendar. During this time they fast, refrain from sexual intercourse and other activities. They celebrate the end of Ramadan. Other festivals they observe include Id al Adha on the 10th day in the 12th month of their calendar. (Ende & Brunner, 2001)
Like any other multicultural society, Iraq is a multi-linguist society with every ethnic subgroup with a unique language. Arabs speak Arabic, Kurds speak Kurdish, and Armenians speak Armenian. Other languages include Turkic, Aramaic and Persian. Due to the Arabs domination, the official language in Iraq is Arabic which is a Semitic language. It exist in three forms; spoken, classical and modern standard. Classical form was used in writing the Quran. The modern standard Arabic is used in official settings like schools and in writing. The spoken is more like the same as the modern but differs in simplicity and verbal structure. (Pientanza, 2007)
Iraq has a rich cultural heritage and which can be found in their museums. They are known for their unique architectural and aesthetic value. They are reputable for a rich literature including the first recorded story “the Epic of Gilgamesh”. They pride their self to invent the earliest style of writing, the wheel, first plow and a math system. They have a rich artistic including weaving carpets, earthenware, molding and fashion design. They are good in making of sculptures. They have traditional music and dances which have been influenced by the Islamic culture. Their music instruments include the flutes, violins, tambourines, ouds and drums. They organize national music festivals. Unfortunately the political instabilities have affected such festivals. Presently, there have emerged talented artists who have adopted modern forms in their music. The government has supported artists previous although it has been very manipulative of the theme in their work. All production systems have been censored by the state making it difficult for artist to express themselves freely. In architecture, they have preserved their traditional architect even in their modern structures. Houses are built in a way that they are environmentally friendly. Most of the urban centers are located in arid areas with high temperatures. Therefore, their houses are spacious and contain open centers. Even though they use of multiples colors in painting their houses, they prefer painting them white or with light colors that reflects heat. The architectural structure of their mosques demonstrates a rich heritage. Their traditional food is rice, vegetables and lamb. They eat together sited on a mat and from a common tray. They use their hands but this is fading away with modernization where more individualized meals and use of utensils is common. (Barsamian & Said, 2003)
Traditionally Iraq relied on agriculture for its economy. Its population was concentrated in rural areas by then. In 1970s Iraq faced an economic explosion because of oil production. This led to urbanization and rural-urban migration. This has caused concentration of resources in urban centers like schools, health centers and the like. Ever since, Iraq economy has major relied on oil production. It is the second largest oil producer in the world from Saudi Arabia. Other commercial activities include; construction, mining, agriculture and manufacturing and which have emerged some industries that create employment for the Iraq people. Due to the nature of their climate, they have not fully relied on agriculture and have traded oil for food. They exports natural gas, oil products, dates and fertilizer to Spain, Japan, Brazil, Russia and France. Unemployment is common and corruption in the labor market. Unfortunately, despite their wealth in natural resources, they are economically crippled. In 1991, they faced the Persian Gulf War against the United States. They were required to disclose their weapon production for assessment but they refused which caused them an economic trade ban from the United Nation authorities. Ever since, their economic ability has been limited. The Saddam’s leadership also weakened their economical performance. Their regular confrontation with international bodies, United States and her neighbors cost her much. Iraq has used much of the available resources in wars which would have been necessary in developing her economically. (Travel Document Systems, 2008)
In the middle ages, the political setting of Iraq was based on subsequent empires until the 20th century. Iraq became a republic in 1958 after a British controlled monarchy was overthrown. Until 1968, Iraq was unstable. Iraq is a republic with 18 provinces each segmented into districts. They hold parliamentary elections every four years. In conjunction with revolutionary command council (RCC), the congress has a role in making legislative decisions. RCC chairman is the president who exercises all executive powers over the assembly council. It has a vice president who with the president, are elected by 2/3 majority of RCC. The president also appoints judges. Saddam Hussein had been the president of Iraq from 1979 until his execution in the 2000s. He was an Arab from the Sunni community. Despite the British colonialism, the Iraq people are pro-Arab nationals. The Iraq’s political setting has been dictatorial under the Saddam’s rule. She has faced a lot of external and internal confrontations. Many ethnic conflicts have been over inequality in government presentations and roles. Saddam rule had created enmity between the Sunni and the Shias communities. The Shias community has for a long time been discriminated. His leadership was very dictatorial such that Iraqis people didn’t have freedom to criticize the government despite its negligence and abuse. Democracy in Iraq existed in theory but practically dead for a long time. In addition Saddam’s leadership caused the Persian Gulf War (1991) which cost Iraq people lives and property. The consecutive years were very difficult for the Iraq people. After the 9/11 terrorism attack on the United States, its policies on war against terrorism intensified operations in Iraq. (Musawi, 2006)
Iraq has been a terrorist ground and US needed to work this out. There was also pressure from international communities to end the Saddam’s regime which had subjected Iraqis to suffering for a long time. The united nation also had some interest in Iraq. She had refused to co-operate in disclosing weapon production for assessment. All these pressure caused the 2000s Iraq wars until the capture of Saddam Hussein and his execution in 2007. Some normalcy has been achieved in Iraq though there is still much to be done to rebuild it. Basically the judicial system is organized and the crime rate was low. Cases of suicide bombings are still rampant in the Iraq society today. (Pientanza, 2007)
Iraq culture and the United States culture differ with mild similarities. United States has a multi-racial as well as multicultural society. It comprises of the White, the Hispanics and Black Americans. Its immigration policies are still open for other immigrants from all over the world. United States is a cosmopolitan society unlike Iraq. The social structure of the United States is gender sensitive. This is drawn from the Christianity doctrine and which dominates the US. Unlike the Islamic doctrine which discriminates women. In addition, US exercise civil rights respect and equality for all mankind. The constitution of the United States covers partially the family matters. It legalizes divorce just like in Iraq. Most of the families in the United States fall under nuclear or single families. The government has a role in educating the children. In addition, children upbringing is more personified to the parent such that children morals are not a concern of the general society. However, just like Iraq, the social stratification is in caste system and classes though this is determined by individual efforts and not government controlled.
Both the US and Iraq are multi-religious communities. However, United States is dominated by Christianity contrary to Iraq where Islamic dominates. In both, there have been incidents of persecution of the minority religions. The official language in America is English while in Iraq is Arabic. There are other minor languages that identify each ethnic group. The Hispanic of the US uses Spanish at home. The black Americans use un-official English.
Not much have been stored to signify American ancient culture contrary to Iraq. This is because of the fact that the majority of United States population is immigrants from different parts of the world. However, there still some traces of their motherland practices amongst them but they have been outweighed by assimilation. However they have a rich technological advancement that has been borrowed elsewhere in the world. What we term as modernity has been initiated by the United States. Their art, their music, their architect is generally what is termed as modern. Unlike the Iraq United States economic performance is excellent. It is the best in the modern world. United States is rich in natural resources, agriculture, industries, social structure among others. This has led to its superiority in the world taking control of the world. Their diet is diverse as they are able to exploit fully the environment. It trades almost in all open market across the world which has contributed to its economic ability. Like Iraq, property is individually owned unless in a partnership policy. United states have been able to balance all resources across it territory and its education system is one of the best across the world. Its literacy rate is very high which ensures efficient specialized labor availability. Unemployment is minimal which makes United States a destiny for better lifestyle unlike Iraq.
The political performance of United States is a role model for many democratic societies in the world to imitate. Though in the past there have been elements off discrimination, dictatorship in one dead phenomenon in US. It has a complex political structure and which serves best for her. Though the president has executive powers, he is required to consult the congress in decision making unlike in Iraq where the president have taken all the powers. United States is divided into states which make up the United States of America. It has in the past neutralized it foreign policies against its enemies but insist on respect for humanity. Generally, the cultural setting of United States is excellent with some mild irregularities like discrimination and erosion of moral standards. However, could be this is what is termed as civilization and the consequences of an independent society.
The cultural background of any society makes it unique. It is the wealth of any society. It is worth preservation and on the other hand rectification. Mankind is characterized by evolution which should move a long with culture. There are those shortcomings that emerge as a result of cripple ness of our culture. Others results after we become conscious of our differences in cultural practices. These shortcomings include; civil wars, corruption, discrimination in race, culture and religion, greed for power, poor leadership just to name but a few. We should put such behind and understand one another. Mankind diversity should be strength. Being empathetic is the only ways we can help one another to fully realize our potential. In situation where we result to confrontation, more life friendly ways should be used to resolve our conflicts. Able countries like the US should support other communities to realize their potentials. However, it is necessary to apply just measures in their support. If Iraq would use these approaches, it would limit the sufferings of its own people. It has a reputation of a rich culture and the only way to protect this dominance is by solving their political and economic issues. They also need to respect one another’s civil rights. In doing so, we will have an ethical society with diverse cultural backgrounds but bound by a common cultural origin of human kind.
Musawi, J.M (2006) Reading Iraq: Culture and Power in Conflict: I.B.Tauris.
Pientanza, C.E (2007) Culture of IRAQ. Advameg Inc. Retrieved on Friday, November 28, 2008 from http://www.everyculture.com/Ge-It/Iraq.html
Ende, W & Brunner, R (2001) The Twelver Shia in Modern Times: Religious Culture & Political Histo: BRILL, 2001
Travel Document Systems, Inc (2008) Iraq Culture. Retrieved on Friday, November 28, 2008 from http://traveldocumentsystems.com/iq/culture.htm
Barsamian, D & Said, W.E (2003) Culture and Resistance: Conversations with Edward: Pluto Press.