…more than a dozen Wahhabis (hardline Sunni Muslims) from Pakistan were recently sent to Iran to meet with Shi’ite clerics, the majority faith in Iran. Pakistan, like Saudi Arabia, is predominantly Sunni. Efforts to keep the religious dialogue secret were exerted at the government level…
High-placed sources say the main objective of the religious delegation sent to Iran was to illustrate to Sunni and Shi’ite sects that “non-Muslim actors” are responsible for sectarian tensions between the two schools of thought in recent years. >continue<
While many non-Muslims are now aware that there is a sectarian divide in Islam between Sunnis and Shiites, it is less commonly known that Syria is ruled largely by members of an esoteric Islamic sect, the Alawites, whose belief in the divinity of Ali, Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, is just one of the reasons that they were oppressed as infidels for centuries by other Muslims. >continue<
BEIRUT — Residents used automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades to repel advancing government troops in central Syria yesterday, putting up a fierce fight for the first time in their 2-month-old revolt against President Bashar Assad’s autocratic regime.
The escalation raised fears the popular uprising may be moving toward a Libya-style armed conflict. >continue<
See also an excellent post in Syria Comment: “Syria in Fragments: Divided Minds, Divided Lives,” by an American in Syria
The government of Bahrain has gone to court seeking to disband two Shia opposition groups.
State media said the ministry of justice and Islamic affairs had “filed a lawsuit to dissolve the Islamic Action Association and al-Wefaq”.
The two groups were accused of violating the constitution and “harming social peace and national unity”.
The government has used force to put down protests calling for reform of the Gulf state’s Sunni monarchy.
Bahrain imposed emergency rule last month after weeks of anti-government protests in the kingdom, where many Shias accuse the monarchy of discrimination.
More than 25 people have been killed in the unrest.
Just noticed this graf in an article by David Kirkpatrick that was published yesterday entitled A Libyan Fight for Democracy, or a Civil War?:
Even one religious leader associated with Sufism — a traditionally pacifist sect something like the Islamic equivalent of the Quakers — lamented his own tribe’s lack of guns for the fight.Here’s the thing: Sufis, both individually and in their collective lodges, have had a long history of being involved with military and direct action. Especially in Libya, where the Sanusi Sufi order played a key part in the war against the Italians. Sufis were also involved in historical military conflicts in the Balkans, South Asia, Anatolia and elsewhere.
The NYT is the newspaper of record here in the States; their readers deserve to be given a decent understanding of the historical context of important news stories.
Daunting complexities within Islam. Sufism another multi-faceted interlacing. Perhaps Kirkpatrick simply had not acquired a state sufficient for learning to begin:
To the Sufi, perhaps the greatest absurdity in life is the way in which people strive for things — such as knowledge — without the basic equipment for acquiring them. They have assumed that all they need is “two eyes and a mouth,” as Nasrudin says. In Sufism, a person cannot learn until he is in a state in which he can perceive what he is learning… (source)
Of all the Arab nations swept up in the post-Tunisia domino wave of anti-government protests, Bahrain may pose the biggest threat to the U.S. The tiny Persian Gulf island kingdom houses the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet and an Air Force base, a toehold the U.S. relies on to contain neighboring Iran. The Bahrain base also allows the U.S. to keep tabs on the 40 percent of the world’s oil that passes through the Strait of Hormuz. Bahrain’s protesters are mostly Shiite Muslims, as in Iran. If they overthrow the Sunni royal family and force the U.S. out, will Iran gain the upper hand in the region? Some opinion:
- This is about Bahrain, not Iran: The U.S. media is framing this as a Sunni-Shiite battle, and we all know, at least vaguely, by now that “Shiites have something to do with Iran,” says Aaron Bady in Zunguzungu. But a closer look suggests this is class warfare — the haves, mostly Sunni, versus the largely Shiite have-nots — not a “sectarian conflict.” Besides, these protests have been going on for “quite some time.” We’re just finally noticing them now.
More opinion within.
Bahrain’s majority Shiites, who make up about 70 percent of the population, have long complained of systemic discrimination by the Sunni rulers. A crackdown on perceived dissent last year touched off weeks of riots and clashes in Shiite villages.
See also: Bahrain’s Strategic Importance