Why is the American press ignoring the role of religion in Iraq?

The question bears that blunt a phrasing in light of today’s coordinated Shia uprising and the press’ non-coverage of its catalyst.

The Washington Post reports that Moqtada Sadr “delivered a sermon here Friday calling on supporters to challenge the occupation.” The New York Times says less than that. CNNcovers the violence by way of Paul Bremer‘s response.

Al Jazeera, meanwhile, reports that “Shia mosques around Baghdad called for al-Sadr’s followers to turn out in force on Sunday.

“‘Loyal people of Iraq, in protest of the detention of religious clerics by the occupation forces, the decision has been taken to general strike at all government institutions and schools, so we call on you to answer this call,’ the loudspeakers blared from mosques.”

The violence may have been further exacerbated, reports Al Jazeera, by a bomb attack on a Shia mosque north of Bagdhad. Probably perpetrated by Sunni militants — ironically, seen by some Shia Iraqis as ultimately in league with the Americans.

But you wouldn’t know any of this by reading or watching the American news. This isn’t a matter of whether Al Jazeera peddles propoganda (a favorite charge of some conservatives), and certainly not one of whether the uprising is “justified,” but rather one of whether our press understands the scope of the conflict in Iraq — the who, what, when, where, and especially the “why.”