Thoughts on The Sirens of Baghdad

I had just finished The Sirens of Baghdad written by Yasmina Khadra (which is the pen name for Algerian author Mohammed Moulessehoul). 

Recently, I found myself reading a vast collection of books concerning the people of Afghanistan or any other Muslim-centric theme books. You see, I have no pleasure in being part of a world filled with prejudice at all. I have no interest in condemning an individual based merely on their race, their religion or ideology. I believe that in the goodness of every person. Nowadays I hear a lot of things in the media condemning all Muslims as terrorists and Jewish people as pure evil. And all of these conclusions come from the impact on the world caused by a small minority of these two groups. I have a lot of Muslim friends and I experienced firsthand how understanding, caring and friendly they are. So it bugs me that whenever I go to youtube or any other forum I stumble upon people claiming serious accusation against Muslim people in general. I have to admit that at one time, I do feel contempt for the suicide bombers who feel they are doing the Almighty's work by killing off a bunch of people who have no part in their suffering at all. But then, I know I must have been unfair in my feeling too. I do not understand their motives and determinations, so who am I to judge them? I can, as said in the Bible, judge my christian brothers and sisters should they have consciously do wrong things, but placing judgments on other people without putting myself in their situation seemed far from right. 

Since media like TV and Internet do not help much, I turned to literature. Literature made by real Muslims, those who have experienced the horror of living in war-torn countries can tell the story of their people much better. I have read a lot of books and still understood just a bit of things. At least I understood something. This book by Yasmina is very honest in addressing the feeling felt by the Iraq towards the Western. It comes back to the very basic of human etiquette; different places have different moral code and manners. And to say that one manner is superior is really saying nothing at all. Even in my own country, the Western manner is inappropriate to us. We do not condone behaviors like kissing in public but that does not mean we are uptight and mean. For us such behavior is inappropriate. I cringe all the time if I see couples touching here and there in public. I mean, come on, letting other people touch you that easily is like giving away easily. And here a woman's honor is revered. It is the same with the people represented in The Sirens of Baghdad. The main character lives in a tribe with strict moral code and they regard their honor high above everything else. When the American soldiers who unknowingly ruin his family's honor, it is understandable he became angry and vengeful. Of course the American soldiers did not understand it, it was not their way of life. 

The main character and his friends are filled with hatred toward the Westerns that they become irrational. People can lose their common sense if they are pushed too far. Besides, he witnessed a lot of evil things done by the American soldiers he was brought to think that the whole world is against his countries and his people. He was so blinded by his hatred that he did not listen to the words of other characters like Dr Jalal and Omar, who despite their anger towards the Western, acknowledge that not all Westerns and the entire world are bad. So we can see that what actually matters here is not whether someone is Muslim than he/she is evil. It is just that when one is pushed to the limit, he/she will do crazy things that ended up hurting themselves and other people. And it can be anyone. 

This book teaches me just that. And I think if more people can read this book than they might as well understand the emotional conditions the Arab people are undergoing. Not just condemn them based on their religion. Sure there are pressing matters regarding women's oppression and other societal norms too, but this book centers on how a person can changed in terrible ways because of the oppression they are put into. So let's focus on that and change our perspective for good.