A daily collage of religion news from the war in Iraq.

Worse than Vietnam?
European Union Commissioner for External RelationsChris Patten says the war in Iraq is already “arguably much more serious” than the Vietnam war. Why? Islam, says Patten. But surely no one will make the mistake of seeing this as a war against Islam?

Not Technically a Mosque
“[Company L's] position is in a Muslim cemetery and an adjacent garbage dump where most of the fighting holes are dug. They control a deserted road in and out of the city. The company headquarters is a religious building, not a mosque, that in more peaceful times had been used to prepare bodies for burial. Tired marines stretch out and doze on the floor beneath calligraphy from the Koran.” (New York Times)

Article 56 of the Hague Conventions on the Laws of War: “The property of the communes, that of religious, charitable, and educational institutions, and those of arts and science, even when State property, shall be treated as private property. All seizure of and destruction, or intentional damage done to such institutions, to historical monuments, works of art or science, is prohibited, and should be made the subject of proceedings.”

Hellmouth
“The main mosque in Najaf, the Shias’ holiest shrine, was surrounded by armed men. Sadr’s office is nearby. Raad al-Khadamy, a senior cleric loyal to Sadr, said an attack would ‘open the gates of Hell.’ … The Observer interviewed one senior Falluja fighter in a local taxi driving around Baghdad. With American patrols just yards away, ‘Abu Nimr’ said his strong Islamic beliefs had led him to fight Saddam’s regime and then the Americans. ‘They have come to our country to destroy Islam…” (“Calm Before the Storm in Bagdhad,” The Observer)

Shuck and Jive
Mahmood Mamdani, whose smart work on the Rwandan genocide we briefly noted, has published a new book, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror, described by the Village Voice‘s Ward Harkavy as a “brief, readable plea to Americans to stop listening to the shuck and jive about a ‘clash of civilizations’ and start learning some practical political history.”

“What [Mamdani] calls ‘culture talk’” writes Harkavy, “obscures the recent history underlying current events. Yes, religious feeling can be used to whip up a frenzy, but terrorism doesn’t simply arise from religion without the help of other clashes—like those between colonizers and the colonized.”

Mamdani was also recently featured on “Now with Bill Moyers,”, though we’re still waiting for the transcript.

Good Muslim, Bad Muslim
U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen. Richard Myers, on CNN‘s “Late Edition”: “‘By his preaching, Sadr is not only anti-coalition, … he doesn’t want progress in Iraq,’ the general said.

“By contrast, Myers said Shiia Grand Ayatollah Ali Husaini Sistani is his own thinker. He noted that Sistani supports the transitional administrative law and the role of the U.N.

“‘I think he’s for progress in Iraq,’ Myers said. ‘He certainly doesn’t want a theocracy in Iraq.’”Oh, yeah?

But then, Myers may be a little unclear on the definition of theocracy himself. In 2003, he gave the opening prayer at the National Prayer Breakfast, an ostensibly ecumenical event convened by this group, the stated goal of which is “a leadership led by God—leaders of all levels of society who direct projects as they are led by the spirit.”