Fundamentalism is an invisible virus that propagates itself through ignorance. It is not only terrorism, it does not kill with bombs alone. At first, it tries to change society from within, stressing patterns of behavior considered to be wrong and inviting people to look with suspicion at those who do not adapt to religious morals born from a distorted interpretation of the sacred texts. Hatred and intolerance spread gradually, through a long process of social attrition.
This is what it is happening now in Iraq, a country split into two (not only from a geographical point of view). On the one hand, there is democracy, born from the ashes of Saddam’s dictatorship, whereas on the other hand there is Daesh. A fragile country where fundamentalism, not necessarily bound to the jihadist groups, finds fertile ground. In the past few days, unknown bill fixers filled the walls of Christian churches and houses in Baghdad with worrying posters. There was the face of Our Lady on them, accompanied by the following words addressed to “our respectable Christian sisters”: “Stop and think: why did the Virgin Mary wear a veil? – the poster recites -. The Virgin Mary wore a veil because this is the Sunna of the prophets, emanated from the Lord and despised by Satan. You need to follow the example of the Virgin Mary, so why do not you wear a hijab?”.
The news reported by the online newspaper Al Araby al-Jadid immediately aroused fears inside the Community. It is not the “N” written in blood-red which stands for nassarah (‘‘Christian’’ in Arabic) which appeared more than a year ago in Mosul, before the persecution perpetrated by the Caliphate, but it is a slap in the face of religious freedom. A rather overt invitation addressed to the Muslims to make also the members of a different religion, based on different rules, comply with their own traditions. As if it were – and this is this what worries the most -, the law of the State.
“These posters attached on churches or on the wall of one’s home is a message from the militia, which says ‘do what I say, or there will not be room for you anymore,” Hanna Sliwah, an Iraqi Christian citizen, commented. In Sliwah’s opinion, “dressing one way or another is a personal matter that has nothing to do with one’s religious beliefs”. From this standpoint, the diffusion of these posters “is a tragedy”. The fact that they were attached also to the walls of ”institutional buildings” makes things even more troubling, the witness has added. According to her “the country is ruled by militias”.
Maria al-Kaldani has said as well that she was “surprised” when she found “a big poster attached at the entrance of a public office in Baghdad” where she had gone for some business. One could see the image of the Virgin Mary on the poster and the words “my daughters, wear the veil”. “As Christians, we are very worried about the limitation of our freedom and of our credo,” Kaldani explained. Faced with this situation, the government does not waste a word”. In the meantime, Christians continue to “receive periodic threats from the armed militia men who have taken possess of most goods which had belonged to Christians in Baghdad”. Since 2003 to present, the Iraqi Christian community has been subject to attacks, kidnappings, robberies, and systematic threats at the hand of both al-Qaeda and militias faithful to Teheran. Lately, they have been threatened also by the organization of the Islamic State, a fact that has provoked an exodus without precedent.