Saturday, June 10, 2006

Who mourns Zarqawi? (DPA & Juan Cole)

Among the 80-85% of Iraqis who are not Sunni Arabs, the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi seems to have been almost univerally welcomed. (One Washington Post article described "a day of festivity.") But among the Sunni Arab minority, as this report from Deutsche Presse-Agenteur indicates, a number of people felt otherwise, and some even mourned him openly. Juan Cole's response is appropriate:
DPA says there are mixed reactions to the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Al-Anbar province. Some hope security will now improve. Some think that the US exaggerates Zarqawi's importance. This was the chilling one:
' Thirty-year-old professor Ahmad Yassin said 'the martyrdom of the jihadist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi represents a grave loss for both the Arab and Islamic Worlds. We lost a great man who died defending the Islamic civilization from Zionist imperialism. I don't think this man can be replaced.' '
Zarqawi would just have been a serial killer if he had lived in normal times, the sort where police are surprised to find hundreds bodies buried in his back lot, and suddenly solving missing persons cases in the region for years back. That anyone at all, much less a highly educated intellectual, could speak of him in these glowing terms sends chills down my spine. Because it means he has a legacy.
Of course, in the larger Muslim world outside of Iraq, many more people undoubtedly feel this way--which is even more chilling.

[In that connection, see also here and here and here and here and here.]

--Jeff Weintraub