CONTACT: Bahram Rajaee
Extraordinarily high levels of internal insecurity, mistrust and intolerance toward foreigners found; data also show declining support for absolute rule by religious leaders.
The research findings appear in an article coauthored by Ronald Inglehart (University of Michigan), Mansoor Moaddel (Eastern Michigan University) and Mark Tessler (University of Michigan), entitled "Xenophobia and In-Group Solidarity in Iraq: A Natural Experiment on the Impact of Insecurity." The article appears in the September 2006 issue of Perspectives on Politics, a journal of the American Political Science Association. It is online at: /imgtest/PerspectivesSep06_Inglehart.pdf
In addition to recent terrorism and the instability following the 2003 invasion the authors consider the impact of Saddam Hussein's repressive rule, which differentially affected ethnic groups in
Since 9/11 thousands of lives have been lost to terrorist attacks around the world. More than half these deaths have been in
The full impact of this collective trauma is evident in the survey data. "The Iraqi public," state the authors, "reject foreigners to a degree that is virtually unknown in other societies throughout the world, including more than a dozen predominantly Islamic countries." Accordingly, 90% of all Iraqis reject Americans or British as neighbors, compared to an international median of 16% who reject foreign neighbors. Surprisingly, 90% of Iraqis reject French neighbors as well--despite the strong objections of the French to the invasion of
The authors also find that "despite severe internal divisions...the Iraqi public as a whole expresses relatively strong feelings of national pride." These sentiments are reflected by the 86% of Arab Iraqis who say they are "very proud" to be Iraqi, ranking among the top six countries surveyed--what the authors term "a defiant expression of solidarity against outsiders." Only 34% of Kurds expressed similar sentiments. Moreover, Iraqis show extraordinarily high levels of solidarity with their specific ethnic group: 96% of Kurds say they trust other Kurds "a great deal" while the corresponding figures are 86% for Shi'a and 68% for Sunnis. This solidarity does not carry over to other ethnic groups, however. Although 86% of all Iraqis strongly trust their own group, only 33% strongly trust other groups.
The current high levels of insecurity have led to the marginalization of other out-groups such as women: 93% of Arab Iraqis and 72% of Kurds agree that men make better political leaders. In addition, adherence to traditional values such as loyalty and conformity is also extremely high today. Obedience, instead of individual autonomy, is emphasized more strongly by Iraqis than in any of the other 80 societies measured. Furthermore, "fully 97% of Arab Iraqis say that religion is important in their lives" and Arab Iraqis also ranked among the world's highest in terms of the rejection of atheists as political leaders. Kurdish Iraqis also exhibited internationally high levels of religiosity and adherence to traditional values, albeit less than their Arab compatriots.
What are the implications of this new data for democracy in
"The restoration of public order and...economic security" should help reverse the levels of inter-ethnic mistrust and the intolerance of foreigners, conclude the authors, and "as the psychological gulf between groups decreases, the prospect for stable democracy will improve." The emergence of a new Iraqi government with greater legitimacy and independence from foreign military support could also counter the violence fueled by high levels of xenophobia.
Three years after the removal of Saddam Hussein from power,
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