Category Archives: Sectarianism

The Enemy Within? the Extremist Salafi Islamist Opposition Returns to Kuwait Politics……..

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Kuwait has the most free and open elections in all the Gulf GCC states. The others don’t really have any. She will have new parliamentary (National Assembly) elections in the last week of November. Much of the ultra-reactionary Islamic-Tribal alliance that boycotted the last election has given up and decided to run for office. That should be good news, but in this case it is truly bad news for the country, its social cohesion, and sectarian tranquility.

The Kuwaiti political opposition are a mix that is dominated by Salafis, Muslim Brothers, and reactionary tribal seekers of office. These have cleverly dominated the smaller Wahhabi-Liberal and pseudo-academic types who are nominally secular.

Last time the so-called Kuwaiti political opposition mustered a majority in parliament, their first act was to vote to convert the country into a Wahhabi-Salafi theocracy by instituting the Shari’a literally. Apparently their ideal of a democratic civil society. The proposal got a majority of votes: every member of that opposition group voted for it. Only the few urban members and the Shi’a members refused to support it. Luckily, the Emir thought correctly that it was a bad idea and refused to sign it. He vetoed it and saved the country from the ritual of beheading, crucifixion, public flogging, chopping hands, and other such Wahhabi-Salafi pleasures and pastimes that exist in a neighboring country.

Most of the opposition members had claimed they would not run again until the election laws were changed away from the new one-man-one-vote system, and until one of their leaders is released from prison. They made a lot of noise about ‘principles’ and about a ‘democracy’ that most of them never believed. Apparently four years on the outside have cured them. Basically they have surrendered and, in true Salafist fashion, betrayed their imprisoned ally Musallam Al Barrak.

The years of absence of any political influence and tribal pressures have caused most of them to announce they are running for the November 27 elections. That means that they will again apply pressures to move in the Wahhabi-Salafi direction. To interfere in the private social lives of people, and to start another book-burning episode. Some of them are already announcing their intention to try again to make the Shari’a the law of the land.

And to fan the flames of sectarian tensions that they introduced to the country. They will also start hounding the Shi’as and maybe the few Christians. Last time they were in parliament this Salafi-MB-Tribal alliance asked the government to start “monitoring” the Shi’a religious services. Meaning to spy and intimidate the minorities. Some, possibly many, of these members no doubt will get elected, and they will start making the country and society even duller that it is now.

We shall see soon enough how the post-Thanksgiving turkeys turn out. Certainly no better than the same turkeys looked last time around…..
Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

 

The March of Violent Fundamentalism in Southeast Asia………..

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“Islam in Malaysia, and Southeast Asia, is taking a more conservative turn. The Muslim faith, brought here by Arab traders hundreds of years ago, has coexisted for generations with Malay customs such as shamanism, other forms of traditional medicine and the country’s sizable Buddhist, Christian and Hindu communities. But more recently, conservative Wahhabi doctrines, often spread by Saudi-financed imams, are redefining the way Islam is practiced and, for some, eroding the tolerance for which the country has been known………. Politicians, meanwhile, are now competing with each other to show off their Islamist credentials. The opposition Pan-Islamic Party strict adherence to Shariah has helped build its support in rural areas. And a government investment fund—under the control of the Muslim-oriented ruling party…………”

In the West they/you talk of Islam and Muslims as if they/we are a monolithic thing. They/we are not. When they say Muslim and terrorism in the same sentence in the West they mean Wahhabi, a small but expanding puritan sect of Sunni Islam. These are the ones engaged in worldwide terrorism as represented by Al Qaeda, AQAP, and ISIS (DAESH).

But there is an even more violent campaign of terror among Muslims, a sectarian war, most of it committed by Al Qaeda and ISIS and their ilk against all Shi’a Muslims and against many Sunni Muslims as well. It now spans the globe.

For years Malaysia has banned the practices of Shi’ism, even as the regime and its clerics moved deeper into the realm of Wahhabi intolerance. Local Shi’as have to practice their rites in secret, otherwise they risk persecution and prosecution. As the article says, the Saudi Wahhabis have been spreading their intolerant sect for decades, by sending Imams and establishing and financing schools. Stoning of women and public flogging is more common now in Malaysia and a few other places than it ever was in the past.

The same applies to Indonesia, which also persecutes its non-Wahhabi Islamic minorities. But that has been the trend through all Sunni Islam: a Wahhabi-ization of the mainstream. Egypt is now quasi-Wahhabi, and that includes Al-Azhar. The trend toward Wahhabi-ization and intolerance among Muslims and toward other muslims, in both Arab and South Asian countries, has accelerated in the past decade. It is now sweeping North and West Africa. Even among European Muslims it is very common, much more common than you think.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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Of Chopped Heads and a Stoned Embassy: the Iranians Help the Saudis………

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The Iranians, some of the clerics and their followers, have a knack for shooting themselves in the foot. They did it again last week, in the aftermath of a gruesome Saudi festival of executions of 47 people by beheading in one day. Just as the world was building up outrage at the judiciously suspect mass killings, the Iranians misjudged and helped the Saudis change the subject.
The Iranians have done it again. They reminded the world, and especially the American people and media, of that “other” embassy attack in 1979. “Some” groups attacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran last week, thus rightly creating outrage among the diplomatic classes across the world.
By allowing it to happen, the Iranians helped change the subject. World media, especially in the USA, have forgotten that 47 people were beheaded by the Saudis on New Year’s Day. They have focused, with a lot of help from Washington lobbyists and special interests, on the embassy in Tehran and on the execution of Sheikh Nimr Al Nimr.

A mass execution of 47 is now being headlined as the execution of one Shi’a cleric. As I said, some in Iran are quite good at helping their sectarian Wahhabi enemies change the subject.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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Muslims and the West: Nigeria’s Other Sectarian Terrorist Army……..

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Another mass atrocity was committed in Nigeria last week. But it did not get much world media coverage. No, it was not committed by Boko Haram gangs, but by the Nigerian Army. Hundreds of Muslim Shi’as were killed and wounded during a religious ceremony by the army. Two days later the Saudi King cabled the Nigerian regime expressing his support of its “war against terrorism”. Hard to believe the Wahhabi king was congratulating the Nigerian army on the massacre of civilians. So, it must have been a strange coincidence. Did I tell you I don’t believe in strange coincidences?

This no doubt means that the Wahhabi sectarian message has reached Nigeria in West Africa. That it is not only limited to bands of Salafi killers like the Boko Haram, but that it has infiltrated the corrupt and possibly Wahhabi-ized halls of government and army.

So, Wahhabis (who claim to be Muslims) are busy killing and massacring thousands of other Muslims in the Middle East and across the world. Wahhabis are also known to turn away other Muslims from mosques in Europe and America and to fight tooth and nail against the establishment of “other” mosques in Europe. Even as many Muslims demand understanding and equality in the West.
Shouldn’t the Muslim house be put in order first, before whining about the Western bigotry?
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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Muslim Wars: Shaikh of Al Azhar Starts Ramadan with a Sectarian Message………

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With the advent of the month of Ramadan, Muslims are waging wars on each other. Saudis and their hired allies are bombing Yemen into rubble. Syrians and Libyans and Yemenis are killing each other. Egyptian kangaroo military courts are handing out unprecedented numbers of death sentences to political critics of the military regime. Sinai and parts of the Nile valley are becoming uncontrollable terrorist hubs. Wahhabi terrorists are busy committing massacres and reinstating (female) slavery in Iraq and Syria. And now the Mubarak-appointed Shaikh of Al Azhar (he now calls himself the Grand Imam but there is nothing Grand about him) has jumped again into the sectarian fray.

Shaikh Ahmad Al Tayeb, a former functionary of Hosni Mubarak’s Nationalist Party, opened Ramadan by warning of a “feverish” campaign to convert young Egyptians away from the Sunni sect to Shi’ism. The shaikh, apparently insecure about his own faith, has warned of an “organized” campaign of conversion that uses education, science, and media. He claimed that there are evil and sneaky attempts to destabilize Egypt through the conversion of its the youth. He warned that “they”, WTF they are, would sneak upon “us” through the Egyptian affection toward the family and descendents of the Prophet and use that to gradually convert people into Shi’ism.

Yes, “they” might be sneaky, and this Ahmad Al Tayeb is probably the most insecure and the silliest Shaikh in the history of the once venerable Al Azhar……….

King Abdullah Earns a Doctorate from Al Sisi University, Morsi Moves from Elba to Saint Helena………
Grand Ayatollah of Al Azhar Gets His Just Reward on the Gulf………
Marine Le Pen Meets Egyptian Islamic Hypocrisy at Al Azhar: J’Accuse au Caire……
Islamic Outer Space: Al Azhar Tackles a Communist Jewish Shi’a Magi Conspiracy……

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
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Islamic Outer Space: Al Azhar Tackles a Communist Jewish Shi’a Magi Conspiracy……..

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“Al Azhar has republished the book titled Broad Outlines of the Shi’a Religion. The first edition of the book was issued more than 60 years ago. In the introduction Dr. Mohammed Amara stresses that the Shi’as are not a (Muslim) sect but a religion. That the followers of that Shi’a religion allied with the Crusaders and Holagu (the Mongol) and American Imperialism and Zionist Christianity against Muslims……… The book compares Shiism and Communism and how the Shi’as have distorted the unchangeable history……. The book also details the history of the relationship between the Magis (he calls Zoroastrians ‘Magis’ but some extreme Wahhabis also use it for Shi’as) (Shi’as) and Jews and Communism…………..”

It reads almost like the fake Tsarist Okhrana-produced Protocols of the Elders of Zion (it would be Elders of Shi’as here). Many Salafis and their ilk as well as quite a few Arab quasi-liberals seriously believe in it. Most of them, especially some Al Azhar shaikhs, need to read some world history, especially the chronology of events.
Egyptian regime clerics are now much more outspoken about the sectarian divide than most other Sunni or Wahhabi clerics. They are now more extremely sectarian than even the Wahhabi clerics in Saudi Arabia. ‘More royal the the king‘ and his men, as the saying goes. The leadership of Saudi clergy are relatively more soft-spoken than many Egyptian clerics on this issue nowadays. At least publicly.

The Egyptians were supposedly allegedly once among the most tolerant of Muslims, but not anymore. Now many of them are deep into religious quasi-Nazi doctrine. It goes beyond the traditional wild groups like ISIS and Al Nusra and Army of Islamic Conquest and other militia cutthroats of all Muslim sects. Is it any wonder some Iraqis, especially Sunni Kurds, are reported in some Western media to be converting back to Zoroastrianism, to become Magi or Majus?
Years ago we used to joke on the shores of my Gulf that the USA and the Russians (Soviets) were exploring outer space for the sole purpose of leaving this Earth behind, abandoning it for us Muslims. That they just wanted to “get out of Dodge“, get away from us and our silliness and stupidity. Oh but it is a worthy cause………

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
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Iraqi Federalist Papers? It’s the Economy, Publius………

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“Their lingering hostility reflects a widespread mistrust of military leadership among Iraqi troops, one of a host of problems hampering U.S.-backed efforts by Iraq’s central government to revive the security forces after a meltdown last year as Islamic State advanced. “It’s a common thing for us to see our commanders abandoning us,” said Sgt. Adwani. He recounted an experience last year in Ramadi—the provincial capital of Anbar, which Islamic State seized in May—where his captain retreated during a close firefight. Ammar Mohamad, an explosives specialist receiving new training from Spanish, Portuguese, and American soldiers at this Iraqi base some 50 miles south of Baghdad, remembered getting orders to withdraw from Mosul as Islamic State assaulted the city in early June last year…………”


Years ago, during the sectarian mini civil war in Iraq, the issue of the division of Iraq was widely discussed inside and outside that country. The issues of federalism and confederation was also discussed by Iraqi factions and famously suggested by then Senator Joe Biden and Leslie Gelb. That was when the Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus’ab Al Zarqawi and other foreign uninvited Wahhabi ‘guests’ set to provoke Iraqi Shi’as against Iraqi Sunnis and vice versa. At some point the issue faded as Iraq became engulfed in a complex multi-faction conflict that went beyond sect and geography.

Now, as Al Qaeda in Iraq ( AQI ) has morphed into the Caliphate of ISIS (DAESH) that threatens Iraqis across their publicized “identities” you would think the issue of some form of political division would be on the back burner. Apparently it is not: it is being fed by sectarian violence among the various “good Iraqis”. It is also being fed by some Westerners, including many in the U.S. House and Senate who apparently think they have no urgent domestic American issues to deal with. But ISIS have already created their own division, their own Caliphate, and unless Iraqis can solve their sectarian issues, DAESH will not go anywhere.
Often economic forces usually trump political ambitions and passions, in the end. Economic forces draw the boundaries and limits of political action. In Iraq, that is the case in the end, if there is to be a viable situation. The distribution of economic resources in Iraq, either oil or agriculture, are tilted toward the southern regions, the mainly Shi’a lands and to a lesser extent the northern mainly Kurdish lands. The Kurds now have Kirkuk, courtesy of the blitzkrieg of ISIS into Mosul in 2014. They probably believe their borders are mostly set, subject to developments in Baghdad and the vagaries of the ruling Turkish Islamists under their neighbor Caliph Erdogan. That leaves much of the Euphrates basin and the vast desert of southwestern Iraq. That is where “it is the economy, stupid” comes in.


Al Anbar province and the rest of what the media and pundits call the “Sunni” areas are economically handicapped. Some agriculture and ranching, with little oil, do not create a viable political entity, especially for a landlocked region. Al Anbar is not Switzerland or Austria: it has even less natural resources than landlocked Afghanistan. If the western regions of Iraq can’t depend on Baghdad, they will have to rely on the “outside”.

An independent western Iraq will have to rely mainly on Saudi Arabia and maybe Qatar or UAE to support its economy. It is unlikely that these countries want to carry the burden of these millions, no matter how much sympathy they have and how tempting politically. Besides, just think of the disputes over the borders, with Baghdad and with the Kurds. That would set Iraq up for continued internal conflict, then as now financed and fueled by outside money and volunteers. It would be outside Salafi influence trying to sway Iraqi Sunnis who are mostly moderates and are averse to Wahhabism.


Federalism with an American-style system (or even a German system) that protects the rights of the regions and their peoples seems the best solution. But not a feasible solution now. Alas, Iraq is not like America or Germany. Nobody there that remotely seems as capable of the task as a Hamilton or a Madison. No Iraqi Publius……….

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Fire and Frying Pan in the GCC: Sectarian Politics, Tribal Politics, Oligarchy Politics……..

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Thinking of my post yesterday about oligarchy and meritocracy made me go back and do some uncharacteristic critical rereading of its general topic.

If you read a list of ministers in any Gulf GCC state, one fact stands out: the most important and most powerful public positions are almost always taken by members of the ruling families. That is often cited as a gateway to corruption. In most cases it is true, as I have pointed out in some examples here.

The issue of regime security is an important factor why security and armed forces are kept ‘within the family’. But in some of these tribal societies the issue is more complicated by two divisive factors which create some support for this concentration of power: 

  • Tribalism: tribalism is rampant in the region, as is tribal nepotism. Tribal ministers or other high officials who are not from ruling families tend to create their own corruption in some of the Gulf states. Any tribal cabinet minister or high official worth his salt will usually tend to favor members of his own tribe. In some of these countries a minister of oil (for example) from Tribe X will literally stuff his ministry and its subsidiary companies with his own tribal kin. A minister of finance from Tribe Y will do the same. Ditto for ministers and directors of various service ministries and departments. One can see it just from a list of heads of departments and the concentration of employees.
    All that creates suspicion and insecurity among other non-tribal or minority members of society.
  • Sectarianism: members of minority sects tend to fear that a minister from a particular majority sect will favor members of his own sect. Members of a majority sect will also fear that a minister from a minority sect will favor his own.

Hence there are specific cases where large swathes of society prefer a minister from the ruling family to another from among the ruled. Especially if the alternative is someone from another specific sect (or tribe). Members of ruling dynasties are often deemed relatively more neutral and seem more like arbitrator of society than others. Even if they also often abuse, misuse, and mismanage the resources. This attitude is especially true among ethnic and religious and tribal minorities. This is quite clear in one particular GCC state where most opposition political leaders and many members of the political opposition are from one large tribe (plus another tribe) and from among extreme sectarian Islamists. It has very few members of the minority sect supporting it. I have written on this particular case before.


Of course that is not true in all cases: in some Gulf and Arabian Peninsula states, in two GCC kingdoms in particular, members of the ruling oligarchy are as tribal and sectarian as anyone else, if not more. And they beat everyone else in corruption.

It is a tough choice for some, stoked by fear, a choice between the frying pan and the fire……..

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Camp David and the Nusra Front Expose the Saudi Inferiority Complex……..

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The media punditry and noise about the upcoming Gulf GCC summit with President Obama at Camp David have exposed certain facts about Saudi Arabia and its relations and aspirations within the region. They have exposed a deep inferiority complex and dangerous insecurity that have exacerbated instability in the Middle East. Just look at the mess that Syria and Iraq and Yemen have become. Let us look at the few countries that the Saudis feel threatened by and create this inferiority complex:
Iran: has some 77 million native people, a diverse economy that has withstood the Western blockade for decades, despite economic mismanagement by the mullahs and lower (deliberately engineered) petroleum prices. It is relatively highly advanced in technology: nuclear and space and medical as well as other industries, probably partly a result of a self reliance forced by the blockade.
Iraq: some 30 million (now), multi-cultural with huge untapped petroleum reserves, and a diverse economy.
Egypt: some 80 million people, a potentially diverse economy and dormant technical knowledge.
Yemen: even poor Yemen has a larger population than Saudi Arabia (26 million citizens against some 16 million Saudi citizens). And an interesting ancient history.
Turkey: a relatively new state with a short history by Middle East standards, but a diverse economy and a gateway to Europe. If only the Caliph Erdogan would stop supporting Jihadi cutthroats in Arab politics.
(Israel: the outlier in the group, but militarily powerful and technically the most advanced in the Middle East. They don’t worry about it because it is non-Islamic non-Arab and hence not a rival; besides, it is either a real or a potential ally against the others).

All these countries have a long history of settled civilization, some of the oldest in the world (with the exception of Turkey).


Is it any wonder the Saudis feel insecure, when they have to rely on foreign labor and foreign products and imported mercenaries to such an extent? When the princes have to pay Sudanese and Moroccans and Senegalese to fight their wars, even against impoverished Yemen? Now they are supreme within the small club of the Gulf GCC. They are assured to remain the largest state, the big man in the club. That is why they will never accept any new members, rivals that are larger and/or more advanced. That is why they will try to make sure other larger states in the region, real and potential rivals, remain distant and weak.
That is why they do the voodoo that they do: try to keep the Western blockade on Iran, keep Egypt weak and politically divided and subservient, try to keep Iraq divided, try in vain to get and keep control of Yemen.

That is why they introduced their strongest strategic weapon so far: politicized modern Islamic sectarianism. They have (re)introduced it into the region and use it extensively to divide and weaken their rivals and maintain their power at home. The alleged Sunni-Shi’a war is in reality an attempt to extend the Wahhabi war on other Islamic sects, on other faiths.
What are ISIS and Al Nusra and Al Qaeda and AQAP and the rest of the intolerant Jihadi gangs but Wahhabism taken literally to its extreme? Speaking of which: reports now tell us that Saudi Arabia and Qatar and Turkey are backing Al Nusra Front in Syria, the certified approved Al Qaeda franchise in that country. Anything for the appearance of an elusive victory on their rivals.

Gulf GCC Comes to Camp David: the Addled, the Wretched, and Emma Lazarus………

Phony Arab Fear of the Iran Nuclear Deal: Catharsis and Kumbaya at Camp David………

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Ebola and American Sectarianism: the Politicization of Everything……..

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“We buy shit we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like….” George Carlin

In these divisive and divided times there is hardly anything, any event, or any phenomenon that is not politicized in America. It is almost like the country is reliving the 1860 campaign of Lincoln: it is deeply divided along political, economic,and cultural lines. That makes the politics venomous in election years, almost sectarian, to use a Middle Eastern reality that many Americans have discovered in the past decade or so. It continues in other years which are not election years but have become pre-election and post-election years. There is so much fuel, so much money to spend on politics: buying candidates, buying expensive airtime on the Boob Tube, and effectively buying voters by financing their favorite television shows.

People here are so busy defeating the terrorists by overworking in order to keep up and to buy more goods and gadgets (some call it more stuff, others call it more shit). That was how George W. Bush succinctly expressed one part of his strategy to defeat terrorism after September 2001: go shopping. So between work and other distractions the people have no time to think politically. They emulate corporations that have outsourced their jobs, factories and customer services, mostly to Asia. Many American voters have now outsourced their political thinking to the television sound-bite industry. I suspect that in many cases the last catchy sound bite on the last weekend before the election wins it all.

As per a decision of the Supreme Court of the USA, money has more than equal freedom of speech and political expression (Citizens United). “Corporations are people, my friend” intoned the Least Interesting Man in the World during the 2012 presidential campaign. So, the politics go viral, more than ever before: the country is divided and money is not a constraint anymore.
Some state governors, ambitious and/or terrified of looming elections, decide that Ebola suspects should be completely quarantined in their states. Other politicians, many from the party that is out of the White House, talk of banning flights from West Africa. Then they wait for their rivals to supply the wrong sound bite and provide a political edge.

In this era, nothing is sacred: from God to National Security to Death. Everything is being politicized: first God, then War, then health care, and now Ebola. Even the HIV/AIDS scare was never so politicized in its heyday. Only sports seem to have stayed above the fray, so far………


Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com