On January 30th the people of Iraq voted for their new leader in what is said to be a triumph for democracy and freedom. However, there are still several problems that must be addressed before victory is declared.
Although in the world of Islam Shiites are a minority, in Iraq they are the majority of the population. This is a potential problem for the minority Sunnis who fear being left out of the legal process or to fall under a U.S. mastered government. For American-Muslims, this issue is also one of debate.
Ahmed Rehab is the director of communications for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) here in Chicago. CAIR handles matters concerning Muslim-Americans and does not have an official stance on the Iraq war.
"We American-Muslims expect and hope for democracy to take place in Iraq...we'd like to see it happen in the right way," Rehab said. He hopes the democracy in Iraq can be "far reaching, deep, and perpetuated." Without this, the democracy in Iraq may "disappear because it was never really there."
When asked what he hopes from the new government his response was one of guarded optimism. Although this is a great opportunity for Iraq, he would like to "be assured that it is being pursued for the sake of freedom and common good of Iraq" and not rendering the new Iraqi government "a puppet of the U.S." He admits that he hasn't much knowledge on the leaders up for election, only that he hopes they do "what is best for Iraq."
However successful the election may have been, violence has continued in Iraq in the days following.
"Islam in no way justifies these criminal activities. They are done against the teaching of Islam and not within it... Islam never condones the killing of innocents," Rehab said.
"Jihad isn't a holy war," he said. "It is a struggle against oppression done with certain rules such as not striking unarmed people, not striking against women. These are compassionate teaching even during times of war. They make war simply a step towards achieving peace when all other steps have failed and not a destination and a means of an end within itself."
The criminals that commit beheadings and terrorist attacks, he says, are "trying to achieve worldly gain and try to tie it to Islam."
With the outcome undecided, there is still many questions to be answered on the future of Iraqi democracy. If the new government is reject but the minority Sunni, or if they are left out of the government process altogether, there is the threat of civil war. Yet the hope of a unity is too great of a thing to pass up.
The Sunni/Shiite schism occurred about fifteen hundred years ago when Islam leader couldn't agree on who should lead the people. Now two factions of people, divided by historical political means, may be brought together in much the same way. So now people in the Middle East, in America and all over the world can only wait and for some, pray.