One of my (very much) leftist e-mail correspondents, thoroughly infected with Bush Derangement Syndrome, tried to make a point that Iraqis were living in peace and harmony before the war (I guess your life was peaceful enough if you didn’t put a toe out of line; otherwise you might get shot), and as proof of that she cited the “high rate of intermarriage” between Sunnis and Shi’ites.
Well, being as my trust for this person’s information is such that I would check her math if she claimed that 2 + 2 = 4, I googled up “Sunni””Shiite” and “intermarriage.” I got 9,200 hits for that search, and plenty of them said things like this:
- Intermarriage was common. Friction existed, but it stemmed mainly from resentment over government preferences given to the minority Sunnis. Shiites directed most of their anger toward Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, not the neighbor down the street.
- The cities of Iraq have diverse populations, with much intermarriage between peoples of different religious and national backgrounds.
I found plenty, plenty, of sites telling me that Sunni-Shi’ite intermarriage was “common,” or that intermarriage rates were “high.” Perhaps that’s where my friend got her information.
But words like “common” and “high” are very imprecise. In the several pages that I searched, I came across one, and only one, with actual numbers. That was Juan Cole (referenced by Tigershark), the University of Michigan history professor who writes frequently on the Middle East, and who isn’t exactly a neo-conservative, who reported:
- Sabrina Tavernise of the (New York Times) shows that Sunni-Shiite intermarriage in Baghdad has fallen from 3-5% in 2002 (the year before the invasion — Ed.) to virtually 0% today, as sectarian rancor has increased and broken up past such marriages.*
One doesn’t normally think of The New York Times as a hotbed of war supporters, either.
Baghdad is, of course, the most cosmopolitan of Iraqi cities, both before the war and now. One would normally expect higher rates of intermarriage there, where Sunnis and Shi’ites simply had more opportunities to meet. And the numbers, from a source normally considered both reliable and not supportive of the Bush Administration, put the intermarriage rate at between 3 and 5%. I don’t know about you, but to me, a 3 to 5% intermarriage rate doesn’t exactly strike me as either “common” or “high.”
What happened? Well, I don’t know, with certainty, in every individual case, but my somewhat educated guess is that someone (whomever “someone” might be) said that the rate was “high,” and the Western
lemmings reporters, rather than actually try to find out themselves, simply passed it on as gospel. No one actually checked, because that would have been too much like work, especially since the records were certainly in Arabic. Finally, one reporter did do the work, and put quantitative numbers rather than qualitative adjectives down on paper — and the qualitative adjectives were shown to be rubbish.
* – The original article from the Times is now hidden behind the paid archives wall.