Archive for the ‘Sectarianism’ Category

The Irony of Sectarianism at a Holy Time

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Writing in the pan-Arab international daily newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat (“The Middle East”), columnist Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed noted the bitter irony of  the “Happy Eid” ( “feast”) ending Ramadan at a time when the Muslim world is suffering under the weight of some of the worst sectarian conflict in recent history.


“The Eid [“feast” ending Ramadan] that brought Muslims together did not come to pass apart from ongoing sectarian civil strife (fitna ) between Sunni, Shia, Alawi, and others.  Today, we find ourselves at the high point of a cultural and confessional conflict in contemporary Islam that is inflaming political differences and spreading like wildfire across a wide geographical area…

King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz at the [recent] Mecca Conference announced an important first step.  He called for the creation of a center for dialogue on stopping the sectarian strife that has plagued the Muslim world. Opinions differ on how to treat the sectarian disease: between those who think we need to criminalize sectarian talk and those who want to create an officially sanctioned culture of coexistence. But loud voices of sectarianism remain among those who consider jihad the optimum way to defend religious convictions…

The first step in the fight against sectarianism is to convince all parties in the political and media spheres that sectarianism represents the greatest threat to the fabric of society and the state.”

Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed, “Loathsome Sectarianism in the Midst of a Happy Eid,” Al-Sharq al-Awsat, August 20, 2012

(My translation)

UPDATE — Aug. 25, 2012 — BBC report: Sufi shrine attacked in Libya

More on Sufism


Syrian Sectarian Strife Spreading to Turkey

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

Muslim sectarianism is the gift that just keeps giving!

See:  Jeffrey Gettleman, “As Syria War Roils, Unrest Among Sects Hits Turkey,” New York Times, August 5, 2012

Syria is but the latest in a long line of venues where the proxy war between Shiites (and such spin off groups as the Alawites) on the one hand and Sunnis on the other  is being fought.  This conflict goes all the way back to the seventh century.  Muhammad died in 632 having left no instructions to his followers or institutions upon which to base a succession.  The resultant feuding led to the creation of the two hostile branches, Sunni and Shia.

In our own time, this sectarianism is being fanned by such countries as Saudi Arabia and Qatar (on behalf of the Sunnis) and Iran (on behalf of the Shia).

The Deteriorating Situation in Syria

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

The pace of the mounting chaos and bloodshed in Syria is accelerating, and the troubles will surely spill over into surrounding nations presenting a new regional crisis.  The BBC has a special web page devoted to developments there.

Ongoing BBC coverage

History of Syria



Sectarian Violence in Saudi Arabia

Monday, July 9th, 2012

 ”The oil-rich Eastern Province is home to a Shia majority that has long complained of marginalisation at the hands of the Sunni ruling family.”

             —  BBC report

More on Shia Islam

Sectarian Terror in Iraq

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

At least 62 were killed in car bomb attacks throughout Iraq as Shiite pilgrims gathered for annual rites honoring Imam Moussa al-Kadhim.

Sectarian attacks on Iraqi Shiite pilgrims during this festival have become common in recent years (for example).

Story at BBC

More on the Shia

UPDATE — July 3, 2012 — At least 25 were killed in a bomb attack targeting Shiite pilgrims gathering for rites in Karbala, burial place of the Shia Imam Hussein (also spelled Husayn).  Hussein was martyred in the year 680.

Story at BBC


Tunisian University a Microcosm of a Nation’s Problems

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Manouba University outside Tunis has become a target of Salafist protests:

Suzanne Daley, “Tensions at Manouba University Mirror Turbulence in New Tunisia, New York Times, June 12, 2012

More on Islamic revival movements



Divisions Emerging Among Syria’s Alawites

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

This article on strains within Syria’s Alawite community brought on by the civil war also contains some background material on the secretive sect.

Neil MacFarquhar, “Assad’s Response to Syria Unrest Leaves His Own Sect Divided,” New York Times, June 10, 2012


Kuwaiti Man Jailed for Blasphemy

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

A Kuwaiti man has been sentenced to ten years in jail for “blaspheming” Islam on Twitter.  The man is a Shiite.  Kuwait’s population is 85% Muslim:  70% of those Muslims are Sunni and 30% are Shia.

Story at BBC

More on Sunni Islam

More on the Shia

Iran Worried About Losing Influence in Middle East

Friday, May 25th, 2012

With Iran’s Syrian ally, the Assad regime, in danger of falling, Iran is spending liberally in Lebanon in an effort to shore up its regional influence.

Neil MacFarquhar, “Iran is Seeking Lebanon Stake as Syria Totters,” New York Times, May 24, 2012

A Guarantee of Political and Cultural Equality for Minorities is Essential

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Writing in today’s Al-Sharq al-Awsat, Ghassan al-Imam says,

“There can be no Arabism and no Arab character without a guarantee of political and cultural equality for religious and racial minorities, the more so as these minorities grow to accept a mutual national coexistence that is not based on ethnic foundations.  Aspirations in favor of separatism, grouped under the banners of “sovereignty” and “independence,” examined carefully as the Arab nation was torn apart in the wake of the departure of colonialismو have only led to paralysis.”

(My translation)

غسان الامام, “تعريب الصراع السني- الشيعي,” الشرق الاوسط, 22 مايو, 2012

Ghassan al-Imam, “The Arabization of the Sunni-Shia Conflict,” Al-Sharq al-Awsat, May 22, 2012