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Essay on Iraqi Culture

How did the British culture affect the southern part of the Iraqi culture from 1940-1949, including language, clothing, traditions, customs, etc? According to the Merriam Webster dictionary the general meaning to culture is, “The beliefs, customs, arts, etc. , of a particular society, group, place, or time. ” The general meaning to culture depends on society and does not have a specific meaning or purpose without being backed up with the social status of a person.

Each group has their own meaning and belief to whatever they may do in their life. Culture has many levels and this proves that culture can be modified in the social status it is enforced within. Culture has six different levels and the following levels are national, regional, gender, generation, social class, and corporate. The national level is associated with the nation as a whole and the regional level is linked with ethnic, linguistic, and religious differences that exist within a nation.

The gender level is the differences between males and females and the generation level is the differences between different generations. The social class is associated with different educational and occupational opportunities one is given. The corporate level is linked to those who only have an occupation. The historical view on culture is the cultivated behavior that is the totality of a person’s learned, accumulated experience which is socially transmitted more briefly behavior through social learning.

Another interpretation to the historical view on culture would be that culture is a way of life of a group of people that affect the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and limitation from one generation to the next. There is another kind of layering within culture itself and they are symbols, heroes, rituals, and values and none of these would make culture without practice.

The Victorian Era which was extremely popular and classical era that concentrated on Latin and Ancient Greek education in Britain in the nineteenth century. This era became popular after the French Revolution when the people of Great Britain had revolted against the parliament. Once Queen Victoria was in power, she saw a reason to encourage society to improve, to enforce, to reform, to benefit, to prevent, to relieve, to educate, to reclaim, to encourage, to propagate, to maintain, to promote, to provide for, to support, to effect, to better, to instruct, to protect, to supersede, to employ, to civilize, to visit, to reserve, to convert, to mitigate, to abolish, to investigate, to publish, to aid, to extinguish. The Victorian Era was not seen as a dark period of credulity and superstition, but as an era of great deeds and deep emotions, far away from the prosaic and mechanical world of early industrial society. On the other hand, religion was not represented as a main focus because the central idea of this movement was human emotions.

It caused Enlightenment rationalists lost power towards religion and came back to their cultural beliefs, however, religion was still part of their lives especially in their art. Also, there was a growing view in society that women should not be higher than a man and that she should out of respect let the man be in control, however, when Queen Victoria became in power she sparked a movement of equality for both genders and that same sense of equality was brought into Iraq because they believed that a women should not be as equal as a man.

Professor Richard Evans, the writer of the following article states that, “relatively new image of women as modest and delicate led to a growing tendency in society, or at least in polite society, to argue that men should become more civilized out of respect for the sensibilities of the female sex,” but he later on states that, “the emergence of new social classes and new social antagonisms… inequality, and social evils of many kinds. ” The same ideas that Queen Victoria was trying to enforce on the British was the same that was brought into Southern part of Iraq.

The southern part of Iraq includes everything below Baghdad. Before the 1940s, there were tribes that were based on last names, Islamic leaders, and a monarchy that all wanted to control Iraq, however, the winning side was the Hawza in Najaf, which is a group of Islamic leaders. Most Arabs were Muslims, so Muslims dominated others and Islam took control of everything, especially in the South. They taught Sheiks and Malalis everything, which included math, science, reading, etc. The Hawza were the ones who told what the tribes should do or not do.

The parliament at the time was just an image to the public eye. The Sheiks and Malalis would teach children in Mosques and other people would teach their kids at home or send them to another house that they considered would be a good teacher. Before the British conquest, people were on wagons and their economy was based on agriculture. Once Britain took control, the British brought out the oil that was mainly in the south of Iraq. Also, they helped the Iraqis with making agricultural farming easier. The method of Irrigation was a huge success because of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

Furthermore, Iraqis believed that women should not be socially equal to men and that she should not go to college or necessarily get out of the house as much. She was mainly a housewife like cooking, cleaning, taking care of the kids, sewing, etc but she never did something that involved her leaving her home. (23) The Iraqis were conquered by the British because they lacked a defined government. They were under the Ottoman Empire ruling, however, after the Ottoman Empire entered World War One they failed because they were not successful enough.

Iraq had a monarchy that had no control over anything. They had given up and given all the power to the Hawza in Najaf. They were composed of important Islamic figures or leaders like Al-Sayed Mohammed Baqir Al-Hakim. He had control of all of Iraq. The tribes were second in ranking when it came to being in control. They listened to everything Sayid Mohammed told them to do and mostly all the laws he told them to oblige by were from the Holy Book, The Quran.

If there were a group who was not going to listen to the Islamic leaders, they would get punished by the tribes and punishments included a five course dinner, money, and negotiation to solve the situation, however, that changed after the British coming into control. The British settled in Iraq because it was known to be the richest in agriculture and petroleum. The main reason they invaded Iraq was because their was a boom in oil and was being sold in large quantities, therefore, causing them to also want some of it to get more money.

They wanted to gain more power and saw an opportunity because they were not under any ruling. Also, it was known as the oldest civilization in the world which meant artifacts and money. The British were afraid that if they were to only rule and not do anything that were to help Iraq, they would be hated on and protests and rallies would occur which would hurt the British’s economic and social status, however, if they would help them and create something that would benefit both the Iraqis and themselves then the Iraqis would still want the British.

In May 1945 Prime Minister Al-Pachachi saw this as a starting point for developing Iraq’s prosperity. Also, the palestinian conflict lead to the Iraqi financial crisis and questioning if the British should stay in control of Iraq. This scared the British and wanted the new prime minister Saleh Jabr out of power. The British started saying that this new prime minister knew nothing about parliament power. They tried creating a treaty but the Iraqis failed to ratify the treaty and that led to a low point in the British-Iraqi relationship.

The southern part of Iraq like Karbala, Baghdad, Al-Nasriya, Al-Basrah, and many more were influenced by the British culture. After being colonized by the British, many customs and traditions in Iraq changed. The English language became more common causing English to become a mandatory second language. Instead of it being a choice to take before. In the 1940s, English was required and still is just like how Arabic is needed for their everyday life. English was needed just as much. Words like top-meaning high in ranking- or jacket.

Also, phrases like “no problem” and others were used instead of saying the actual arabic phrase. This affected the younger generations the most because the older generations had already left school and were not obligated to study something they did not want to. Younger generations started to use the English language more and more thinking that it was “cool” to try something that others did not know of. “Cool” was a very popular word that almost every teenager used when they talked.

When the teenagers started using English more in their speech, it caused older people question and try to adapt this new advancement and try to understand the younger generations in general. The younger generations were the main reason why there was an increase in the use of English. Also, shipments from English-speaking countries also influenced this. People had to learn English to try and communicate with them. The people who had to learn English to communicate with the British who had settled in their country were the sheiks or Islamic leaders because they were the ones who interacted with them most.

Arabic is a hard language to learn especially for not native speakers. Iraqi slang is complicated to understand because there are words that start and end with “ch” which other countries do not use and is not a part of the Arabic letters. Also, countries like Syria and Egypt and others do not understand the Iraqi slang because the accent is strong, however, countries like Kuwait and United Arab Emirates understand the Iraqis because the accent is in a way similar because they are considered the Arabian Gulf.

Furthermore, Kuwait was a part of Iraq before they became an independent country. English was an easy language to understand and learn, and the Iraqis learned English and the government made it officially part of the curriculum for children in school to learn English. Furthermore, schools were not officially established before the conquest. Children had to go to the teacher’s house and they would sit in a circle in the living room and their teacher would teach them, however, there were colleges that only men attended.

After the conquest, schools became official and students went to an actual building. Also, women started attending college. The first college to accept women is the University of Baghdad. The biggest college in the Middle East was The University of Baghdad. At the time even the king of the United Arab Emirates said, “I wish that Emirates would become like Iraq. ” The king of UAE said that because the Emiratis still rode on camels and did not reach such advancement in technology or even civilization like the Iraqis. (171) Moreover, women’s clothing changed.

Women dropped the abaya, which is a black, one piece clothing that covers a woman from her head to her feet. A long time before the British settlement in Iraq, it was a social issue if women did not wear the abaya. If she did not wear it then she was prone to being criticized by anyone. In Iraq, Islam played a major role in people’s everyday lives. Either it was through the person’s culture or the government. For example a hijab, which is a head covering for Muslim women, was not an obligation but abayas were, especially in holy places like Karbala and some certain districts in Baghdad.

Specific districts like al abbasiya alsharqiya in Karbala and al athmiya in Baghdad were religious areas that required an abaya and were where important Islamic figures were buried. If a women were to enter the area without an abaya then she would be disgracing and showing no respect to the holy area she was in. In cities like Al Nasriya, Al Basra, and everywhere else except Baghdad are tribal and go by the family’s last name. Some well-known tribes throughout Iraq are Al-Musawi and Al-Tamimi and they are located in the South of Iraq.

What would happen with these tribes is that if someone were to make a mistake or do something that would be considered a disgrace like a women not wearing an abaya, there would be a gathering of the tribe and they would sit down and try to discuss a solution to the problem the person might have or has created. A change towards how women dressed or just to the Iraqi culture in general would have never happened if change was not asked for or wanted in the beginning. The abaya leaned towards Islam and many people did not appeal to this clothing, especially teenage girls. Women and men’s clothing changed.

Men used to wear a “dishdasha,” which is a long one piece of clothing that is from the shoulders and goes down to the ankles and were only in the colors of beige, white, and black. Men still did wear it after the invasion, however, not as much as they did before the invasion. Men started to wear pants and shirts more than they did before. Also, women went from an abaya to a short skirt that went to her mid thighs. The change in women’s clothing was drastic. They went from completely covering themselves to nothing at all. This advancement angered the Hawza and the tribes that were in control.

They opposed the idea of change in society and the people. Therefore, they started making clothes that were “shar’i” or Islamically acceptable, which meant that they could wear longer skirts and long shirts and the hijab was wrapped just like how it was before. The people who did not abide by the rules were looked at differently and judged because the Hawza had embedded into the tribes minds that if a girl were to go out without “modest or respectful” clothing, which was anything long that covered a women up, was a shame to the tribe and to the Iraqis in general.

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