If there’s one general insight that has stayed with me from the IR501 (International Relations and Religion) course I took in grad school, it’s that categories suck. “Christian,” “American,” “Arab,” “Muslim,” “Liberal,” “Friend,” etc. serve an important purpose of helping us order the complex information we process every day, but they also simplify and homogenize that complexity.
One example is the category of “Iraqi” in American media. When the majority of printed pictures of Iraqis portray “terrorists” or scenes of death and destruction, “Iraqi”–which is an incredibly diverse category–can be reduced to “violent terrorist” in the minds of those who digest media uncritically.
During my month here in Najaf, my host Sami Rasouli has introduced me to many Iraqis who don’t fit the category, “Iraqi” (as it has been defined in America). For the sake of exploding / adding nuance to that category, I’d like to share a little about a few of these people. They have invariably been generous, welcoming, and kind—perhaps better descriptors for the category of “Iraqi”–but they are also diverse.