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Hussein's Ungodly Ways Pave Road to Democracy

Iraqi dictator has separated mosque and state.

September 25, 2002|RANAN R. LURIE | Ranan R. Lurie is a senior associate at the Center of Strategic International Studies in Washington, D.C., and a syndicated columnist and political cartoonist.

Finally, there is something good to say about Saddam Hussein: He's not, and never was, fanatically religious.

Even during the long years that he tormented the Iraqi people by starving them, gassing them, murdering them and depriving them of the most basic human freedoms, Hussein never allowed Islam to overrule him.

In fact, one of the main propaganda tools the Iranians used against Hussein during their eight-year war with him was that he was a "heretic" and an "infidel."

Hussein is not an infidel; he just doesn't like sharing power with anyone, not even Allah.

This explains why Iraq is today the least religious Arab country, a fact that will make it easier for the U.S.--after it eliminates the current regime--to set in place on Middle Eastern ground the first peg for its forthcoming democratic tent.

The key is the separation of mosque and state, for which the world can thank Hussein. We can make Iraq--minus Hussein and his cronies--the showcase of democracy for the entire Arab world to envy, learn from and emulate.

Let's not forget that tradition says Iraq was the original Garden of Eden, as described in Genesis. It's a country of plentiful resources because of its good soil, ample water and control of 10% of the world's oil.

The Iraqi people are among the most advanced and best-educated individuals in the Middle East. Iraq is probably the most technologically savvy society in that area of the world and, historically, is very commerce-minded.

No Arab country can compete with Iraq for potential natural integration into globalization, openness and democracy.

One successful democracy may turn the entire Middle East upside-down by proving to be contagious to the hundreds of millions of Arabs who have never known personal equality.

If we treat a postwar Iraq the way we treated Germany and Japan after World War II, we may be able to establish the light at the beginning of a very long tunnel.

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