Tag: Shi’a

Pot luck at the Iranian souk in Abu Dhabi

Tuesday, 5 January, 2016 0 Comments

The coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) stretches for more than 650 km along the southern shore of the Persian Gulf. It’s a tough neighbourhood, as current headlines prove, but despite their Sunni/Shi’a differences, the UAE and Iran have a working relationship because of their economic ties across the Strait of Hormuz.

One can see this cross-border trade in action in the “Iranian souk” at Mina Port in Abu Dhabi. Here, the bargain hunter will find carpets (frequently from Pakistan), pottery, plastic stuff (mostly from China) and kitchen utensils, especially pots. Some of these could hold a sheep, comfortably, and they evoke visions of meals for families where “extended” takes on a completely new meaning. Two rules: Shoppers are expected to haggle before buying and women should not visit on their own.

The Iranian souk in Abu Dhabi


Shia and Sunni and the Thirty Years scenario

Monday, 27 January, 2014 0 Comments

“This is a conflict which is not only bigger than al-Qa’eda and similar groups, but far bigger than any of us. It is one which will re-align not only the Middle East, but the religion of Islam.” So writes Douglas Murray in the current issue of The Spectator in a piece titled “Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the Middle East’s 30 year war.” Murray contends that the slaughter in Syria is, in reality, a proxy war between Saudi and Iran, between the Shia and Sunni factions of Islam. “There are those who think that the region as a whole may be starting to go through something similar to what Europe went through in the early 17th century during the Thirty Years’ War, when Protestant and Catholic states battled it out,” he says, warning that the current savagery will be exceeded in barbarity when the “gloves come off.”

The former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is sounding a similar alarm. “Religious difference, not ideology, will fuel this century’s epic battles” he claimed in yesterday’s Observer. Citing a “ghastly roll call of terror attacks” in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Russia, Burma, Thailand and the Philippines, he declares that these “are perpetrated by people motivated by an abuse of religion. It is a perversion of faith. But there is no doubt that those who commit the violence often do so by reference to their faith and the sectarian nature of the conflict is a sectarianism based on religion.”

If there is to be peace, we need to study faith and globalisation and agree on the place of religion in modern society. With this in mind, in collaboration with Harvard Divinity School, Tony Blair’s Faith Foundation, will launch a website later this year that will provide “up-to-date analysis of what is happening in the field of religion and conflict; in-depth analysis of religion and its impact on countries where this is a major challenge; and basic facts about the religious make-up and trends in every country worldwide.” It’s not a solution, but it is a sign and it’s a necessary sign because the latest Pew report on global religious Hostilities doesn’t make for pretty reading. “The sharpest increase was in the Middle East and North Africa, which still is feeling the effects of the 2010-11 political uprisings known as the Arab Spring.”

Meanwhile, a glance at the devastating history of the original Thirty Years’ War should encourage everyone to work to prevent a modern-day re-enactment.

War


The silence of the imams

Tuesday, 10 September, 2013 1 Comment

Students of contemporary barbarism should take note of what happened to customers at the Village restaurant in Mogadishu on Saturday. Here’s the BBC report: “The Somali Islamist militant group al-Shabab has said it bombed a popular restaurant in the capital Mogadishu, killing 15 people… Run by Somali businessman Ahmed Jama, who returned to the country from the UK in 2008, it was targeted by two suicide bombers last September in attacks that killed 14 people.”

As word of this appalling crime seeped out, Pope Francis was holding a “Syria peace vigil” in Rome attended by 100,000 people. “May the noise of weapons cease!” he said. “War always marks the failure of peace — it is always a defeat for humanity.” He didn’t mention the murdered Mogadishu diners directly, but he cannot be faulted for this because no imam did, either. These authority figures in the Islamic world are usually vociferous when it comes to condemning the decadence and crimes of the “West”, but they tend to be very shy about the horrific crimes being committed in the name of their own faith. And the body count from those faith killings is shocking.

In Iraq, some 4,000 people have been killed by rival Sunni and Shi’a gangs so far this year. The pot of sectarian hatred is being stirred by the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is also heavily involved in the savage Syrian civil war. It has invested heavily in the notion of an embattled Alawite regime led by Assad battling a radicalized Sunni opposition of al-Qaida terrorists because this legitimizes Teheran’s interference. Meanwhile, Turkey’s government is adding fuel to the sectarian fire, as rumors circulate that Ankara is pressing for a Sunni majority Syrian government if Assad falls. One does not need a vivid imagination to picture the butchery that would follow, should this ever be the case.

Forgotten in this gruesomeness is that fact that the Taliban have killed more than 1,300 men, women and children so far this year with car bombs, improvised explosive devices and suicide bombers in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. As if that wasn’t enough, Muslims are also murdering Muslims in Pakistan, Libya, Tunisia and Egypt and the silence of the imams and mullahs regarding this carnage is deafening. Finally, there’s Yemen: “Kuwaitis have called for stringent action against a family in Yemen after their eight-year-old daughter died of internal injuries on the first night of her arranged marriage to a man more than five times her age.”

A mosque