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Authors: Helfont, Samuel R.
Advisors: Haykel, Bernard
Contributors: Near Eastern Studies Department
Keywords: Ba'th
Subjects: Near Eastern studies
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation investigates the relationship between religion and state in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. It is based on extensive research with Iraqi archives. The dissertation pays particular attention to the Ba‘thist regime’s strategy of authoritarian entrenchment as a means of instrumentalizing religion to achieve its political goals. It closely follows Saddam Hussein’s strategy of co-opting, coercing, and creating a religious landscape. The Iraqi archival records reveal that Saddam’s increasing and well-documented references to Islam in the last decade of his rule resulted from the regime’s integration of Iraq’s religious leadership into its authoritarian system. Saddam’s subsequent perception of control over Islamic discourse in Iraq afforded him a hitherto unprecedented level of comfort to introduce religion into the public sphere. Furthermore, the existence of newly co-opted religious leaders provided the regime with the means to spread a particular interpretation of religion that reinforced Ba‘thist rule in Iraq, and undermined its adversaries around the globe. This depiction of the Ba‘thist regime’s instrumentalization of Islam implies that its perception of control, rather than an ideological shift, was at the heart of its changing policies toward religion. Accordingly, this dissertation’s investigation of the relationship between religion and politics under an authoritarian system moves beyond debates over ideology. Instead, it focuses on the authoritarian structures that are necessary for such ideologies to operate. Creating such structures in Iraq was no easy task. It involved not only the use of extreme violence, but also subtle strategies of co-optation. Saddam’s regime was particularly skillful in transforming time-honored religious institutions into political tools. Access to the regime’s internal records provided the opportunity to meticulously track that process as well as to document resistance to it by Iraqi religious actors for the first time. The dissertation finishes by arguing that a failure to understand the relationship between religion and state in Saddam’s Iraq was a major contributing factor to the insurgency that developed following the American-led invasion of the country in 2003.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Near Eastern Studies

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