Iraq offers incentive to intermarry

When religions loose sight of their higher calling, and hardened divisions make of believers and religious bodies causes of social disorder and conflict, sometimes people in the political sphere prove themselves to be more visionary and high-minded

Ahmed Fadaam and Aamer Madhani (“USA Today,” November 23, 2009)

— Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi has an unusual proposal to mend
some of Iraq’s sectarian wounds: He offers mixed couples a $2,000
“gift” if they get married.

Before the U.S. invasion,
intermarriage between Shiites and Sunnis was fairly common. As
sectarian fighting ripped apart the country, intermarriage became a

Now that the security situation is relatively calm, the
Iraqi government wants to nudge couples of mixed sects to get hitched,
hoping that will repair the relationship between Iraq’s majority Shiite
and minority Sunni populations.

“After 2006, we found that mixed
marriages had stopped,” said Raad Majeed Mohammed, an aide to
al-Hashemi, a Sunni and one of Iraq’s two vice presidents. “The idea
behind this project is that promoting love and socializing between
Iraq’s people is good for the country.”

About a dozen mixed
couples will take part in a mass wedding Friday and will receive their
$2,000 gifts, Mohammed said. An additional 375 same-sect couples will
join the celebration, but they’ll receive $750, Mohammed said. The
government wants to help those cash-strapped couples in getting their
start, he said.

Mohammed said the mass wedding celebration will
include a banquet and music. The government is paying for gowns for the
brides and suits for the grooms, as well as for hotel rooms for the
couples to spend their first night together as husband and wife.

said she is hopeful that Iraq’s worst days are in the past, so she and
al-Rubaiee can raise a family without concern about their different
sects and possible violence.

“Mohammed is a good man,”
al-Samaraee said. “We read the same Quran, worship the same God and
have faith in the same prophet. God willing, there will be no more


so, some of the couples who signed up for the cash reward say their
plans to marry across sectarian lines draw mixed feelings from loved

“I even noticed some hesitation from my own family,” said
Aws Saad Abdul Jabbar, 23, a Sunni marrying a Shiite woman this week.
“I told them I like the girl, and being from another sect is not a
factor. Her way of thinking and morals are more important than sect.”

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