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Cultural Awarness


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Cultural Awareness

As an Officer in the military one must remain on constant vigil. Vigilant against the enemy, against complacency, and no less important, we must remain vigilant against alienating those we seek to help. Working to rebuild a foreign land, thousands of miles from home away from your family and friends is already a tough job. Alienating the local population can only exacerbate the problems the military already has. Some of the more important areas of cultural understanding for American Soldiers are religion, and ethnicity. There are five basic tenants of the Islamic religion. These five pillars provide the Muslim people a guide for their daily lives. The shahada is the belief in one true god, Allah. Like Christians and Jews, Muslims believe in only one god, and that god is the same for all three religions. The next pillar is the salat, which requires Muslims to pray five times per day. The zakat is the act in which Muslims provide charity to those in need. It is considered a duty and is taken very seriously. The next two pillars may not happen on a daily basis, but are no less important. The sawn is fasting. Muslims will deny themselves food from sunrise to sunset during the holy month of Ramadan. The final pillar is he Hajj. Any Muslim with the means must make the Hajj to the holy city of Mecca at least once during their lifetime. These five pillars provide the guidelines that Muslims must live their lives by. To understand the people in the regions where we as Soldiers will be operating, we must understand the people who live their and what drives them. While the Muslims in Iraq share a common religion, they vary by their distinct ethnic groups. Iraq is composed of mainly Sunni and Shia muslims. In the northern region they also have a large population of Kurdish people. Sunni and Shi are both Arabic people. The two groups are distrustful of each other. The Sunni are the minority, but have held a position of power over the Shia for much of the last half of the 20th century. The Shia are distrustful of the Sunni because of the way they have been oppressed by the political dominant Sunni. Both groups also have long lasting religious tensions that feed their angst against each other. The third major group in Iraq is the Kurds. The Kurds in the north are not Arab. Although they are Sunni, they prefer to be independent from greater Iraq. To round out the population of Iraq, Chaldeans, Turkomans, and Assyrians are also present. These groups while not insignificant do not carry the same political power as the Sunni, Shia, and Kurds. The people of these groups make the population of Iraq. They use the five pillars as a guide for the way in which to live their lives. Understanding these can go a long way towards helping American Soldiers be more successful at their ultimate goal of creating a stable long lasting Iraq.

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