- A mass grave from the Farhud, the 1941 riots in Baghdad that killed hundreds of Jews and injured 1,000.
Baghdad, August 24 - Rashid Muhammad, 90, has seen technological and economic advancement in his many years, but still considers his youth in Iraq a better time to live, because life was simpler then and Jews didn't fight back.
The retired merchant, whose family still runs the home furnishings business he founded in 1950, spoke in an interview about growing up under British, then Arab, rule at a time when the complex concerns of modern commerce and politics had yet to emerge, and violence against Jews brought little in the way of direct consequences if the political winds were blowing a certain way.
"We had a grand time during the Farhud," reminisced Muhammad, referring to the June, 1941 riots targeting Jews and Jewish-owned establishments. "Things were pretty straightforward back then. I had my friends, and our families all went to the same mosque where we learned the same values, among which was a heavy dose of Nazi propaganda. So we did what was obvious. I personally used my handprint to mark Jewish-owned homes in red ink so the mobs would know whom to target, and that was just thrilling. I mean, after a day or two the British came back and killed a few hundred rioters and looters, but it wasn't out of any great love for the Jews. It was the attitude - and, I would say, the freedom - to do what we'd wanted to do for ages that I'm talking about."
"The Jews had no weapons and no way to fight back - they were completely at the mercy of their neighbors," he continued. "It's not that simple anymore. Things have gotten a lot more complicated in the decades since. Technology, politics, health care, and Jew-killing aren't nearly as straightforward as they used to be. It used to be the doctor would come to your home when you got sick, and there were only a few available treatments anyway. Now there are tests up the wazoo and treatment options have to be explained like you wouldn't believe. Also, we killed or expelled most of the Jews within ten years of the Farhud, and nothing happened to us as a result. I miss those days."
Muhammad concedes that the increasing complexity of life might be a function of his changing perspective as he ages, and not an objective shift in life's complexity. "I have to admit I see the same simple thrill I used to have when I now look in the eyes of a young Iraqi setting out to join Daesh, who disdain nuance, and I know I could never be that excited about ideology anymore. It's not the way it used to be, when our victims couldn't defend themselves, and their pathetic situation only served to confirm their inferior position in our minds. I miss that."
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