Religious Interests

Iran-Iraq War, Indo-Pakistani Conflict & Spanish Civil War

Indo-Pakistani Conflict

  • As the Hindu and Muslim populations were scattered unevenly in the whole country, the partition of British India into India and Pakistan in 1947 was not possible along religious lines.

  • Pakistan divided with the intention of being the nation for the Muslims of India.

  • This is also called the First Kashmir War. The war started in October 1947 when it was feared by Pakistan that the Maharajah of the princely state of Kashmir and Jammu might accede to India. Following partition, states were left to choose whether to join India or Pakistan or to remain independent. Jammu and Kashmir, the largest of the princely states, had a predominantly Muslim population ruled by the Hindu Maharaja Hari Singh.

  • Eventually though, in October of 1947, the ruling prince of Kashmir decided in India favor.

  • 1965 - This war started following Pakistan's Operation Gibraltar, which was designed to infiltrate forces into Jammu and Kashmir to precipitate an insurgency against rule by India. India retaliated by launching a full-scale military attack on West Pakistan. The seventeen-day war caused thousands of casualties on both sides and also witnessed the largest tank battle since World War II.

  • 1971 - This war was unique in that it did not involve the issue of Kashmir, but was rather precipitated by the crisis created by the political battle between Sheikh Mujib, Leader of East Pakistan and Yahya-Bhutto, leaders of West Pakistan brewing in erstwhile East Pakistan culminating in the declaration of Independence of Bangladesh from the state system of Pakistan. Following Operation Searchlight and the 1971 Bangladesh atrocities, about 10 million Bengalis in East Pakistan took refuge in neighbouring India.

Iran-Iraq War

  • The Sunni-Shi'i split started as a political disagreement over the right of succession (khilapha or caliphate) after the Prophet Muhammad's death.

  • The Iran- Iraq war was one of the longest and bloodiest conflicts of the 20th century. Sunni- Shi’ite tensions, whilst entrenched for centuries, certainly came to a head following the pro- Shi’ite revolution in Iran that sought to spread its message across the Arab world, threatening the domestic security of the Sunni Baath party. However, to suggest that it was the sole factor would be to neglect the short term contributory catalysts that can be considered the true causes of the decision to undertake all out warfare.

  • One of the areas of cross cultural significance in which the animosity between Sunni’s and Shiites became apparent, and manifested itself in an excuse for hostility, can be found in a series of purges in Southern Iraq by Hussein. The Baath party rounded up Shiites in the area, and those of Iranian nationality, and those who could not legally prove their Iraqi citizenship, were bussed into Iran.

  • Another manifestation of Shi’ite-Sunni animosity can be found in Iraqi paranoia over the possibility of a Shi’ite revolution. Shi’ite Muslims in Iraq regarded Khomeini as their natural religious leader, who in turn used this eminence to advocate the overthrow of Hussein and begin the Islamification of secular Iraq. Indeed, a brief glance at Iraqi history lends validitiy to Hussein’s paranoia. After the revolution, Khomeini’s government continued to attempt to foment revolution in neighbouring Arab states (Azhary, 1984, pg.4). Clawson and Rubin (2005) note the support Tehran provided for Shi’ite terrorism attempts, believed to be responsible for the 20 deaths of Iraqi government officials in 1980 alone. Whilst Iraq had retaliated by supporting a coup to install Bakhtiar, the Shah’s last Prime Minister, it failed, and war was considered to be a natural extension of the attempt to displace the Shiite supporting Iran leadership.

  • The goal of the attack then, as well as the removal of Ayatollah Khomeini, was to send a signal of discredit to those who supported Khomeinis revolution, and provide an ominous example to domestic factions considering the possibility of emulating Khomeini’s Islamic coup.

  • The differences between the Sunni and Shi'i jurisprudence remained the domain of the scholars to argue about for centuries. But the average "man on the street" remained oblivious to these differences, quite unaware in most cases, that they do exist. When Khomeini took over in Iran and attempted to export his revolution, he caused a religious reawakening and re-education among Sunnis and Shi'is alike that these differences exist and that they are real.

Spanish Civil War

  • The Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) proved exceptional because both sides in the struggle received support from intervening great powers: Germany, Italy, and Portugal supported opposition leader Francisco Franco, while France and the Soviet Union supported the government.

  • The Civil War was brutal, and reaction to it, especially in Europe, was complicated by intense rivalries amongst the European powers: Britain and France, Germany and Italy, the Soviet Union all eyed each other with increasing distrust. Against this background, both Republican and Nationalists sought to influence international perception of their role in the Civil War. The Nationalists, however, had a powerful ally with both international influence and moral authority: the Catholic Church.

  • Early on the Republic had antagonised the Church with measures aimed to remove its influence from public life, e.g. a declaration that El Estado español no tiene religión oficial (The Spanish State has no official religion) or the removal of religious orders (e.g. Jesuits, nuns) from public education, which became secular. As a result, the Republic was odious to the Church, and almost all the clergy --with the exception of those in the Basque provinces-- threw their weight behind the Nationalist rebels from the beginning. Priests hurled hatred against the “Reds” from their pulpits, blessed the troops and flags before battle and adopted the fascist salute.

  • Spain was, they argued, a target for powers which had decided to overthrow constitutional order and with violence setup Communism.

  • The Bishops spared no pain in attacking the Soviet Union for its intervention in the Spanish Civil War on behalf of the Republic, but were silent on the help given to the Nationalists by Germany and Italy.

  • To further the “truth,” the bishops also called on fully proved facts to demonstrate with numerous examples the barbarity and inhumanity of the Republicans.

  • Both the massacre of Badajoz (Aug 1936), and the brutal destruction of Guernica --to name only two Nationalist atrocities-- were attributed presumably to a momentary loss of serenity or to a mistake.

  • No doubt the Church suffered humiliation and loss of influence under the Republic, and Republicans also committed atrocities during the War.

  • A speech by Cardinal Gomá in Budapest in 1938, when it was already evident that the Nationalists had the upper hand, made it clear that reconciliation was not forthcoming: Indeed, it is necessary to end the war.

  • In order to organise peace within a Christian constitution it is vital to uproot all the rot of secular legislation.

Spanish Civil War | 3 Minute History