Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Flag Symbolism

I was in the car the other day waiting for the traffic light to change to green when I noticed the American flag in front of Kinko’s (a copy shop) flutter in the wind, and I could not help myself but start thinking about why countries have flags.
I have thought of this before, and after living in the U.S. I became sort of envious of the American people for being able to show their patriotism and love for their country through their flag. I noticed how they directly relate their respect for their flag to being patriotic and loyal to their country, and I yearned for having that same kind of feeling about the Iraqi flag.
Unfortunately, for us Iraqis, or at least in my personal opinion, we could never show our patriotism and love for Iraq through our flag. First of all, being patriotic in Iraq before the fall of Saddam would translate into one of two things: either it means we are being loyal to the government in power rather than being loyal to our country Iraq (regardless of who is in power); or for those who were truly patriotic then they would naturally be opposed to the former tyrant regime and would most likely meet their end at the hands of the Mukabarrat (Saddam’s spies). Secondly, the Iraqi flag during the era of Saddam (which is all of my lifetime of course!!!) became connected to the tyrant regime when Saddam purposely added the words “Allah Akbar” IN HIS OWN HANDWRITING to the Iraqi flag. This move by the former coward achieved two objectives:
1. The flag would always be connected to him since it was in his handwriting; thus, respecting the flag would be seen as being loyal to Saddam rather than being patriotic to Iraq.
2. The words “Allah Akbar” which in Islamic faith mean “God is great” lead to the alienation of Iraqis of other religious beliefs such as Christians, and Jews. Thus, how could I, a Christian, use the flag as a symbol of my loyalty to my country when it had specific words that were not part of my religion? And why in the world would a flag, which is supposed to be a symbol of a country, be tied down to a specific religion especially in such a diverse country like Iraq?
When Saddam’s regime fell and the talk about changing the Iraqi flag back to its original form (without Saddam’s “Allah Akbar”) was under discussion, I got excited. I thought I could finally show my love and deep patriotism to my Iraq through the flag. I would hang it at a place of honor in my house or my room and use it in other places (like my blog for example). To my disappointment though something happened to that discussion, and the flag was never changed. Instead, they only changed the “Allah Akbar” on the flag from Saddam’s handwriting to a typed font. It made me think what kind of democracy these people are trying to build when the very symbol of our country is excluding people of other religious beliefs. Don’t the minorities also have the right to show their pride and love for their country? Shouldn’t the new democratic Iraq have a flag that represents all Iraqis regardless of ethnicity, religion, or any other kind of belief? Isn’t that what democracy is about?
I really hope something would happen, and the Iraqi flag would be changed back to its original form. That way, ALL Iraqis like the rest of the world can have a flag they can respect and be proud of!

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