by Abu Dharr (Guest Editorial, Crescent International Vol. 34, No. 10, Shawwal, 1426)
The thrusts and counter-thrusts into each other's enclaves by Iraqi Sunnis and Iraqi Shi‘is – both reinforced by their unwitting and well-meaning supporters among Sunnis and Shi‘is outside of Iraq – and resulting in a growing number of innocent victims as sectarian violence threatens to become the basis for a protracted war between Sunnis and Shi‘is. Such a conflict would not be of their own planning, but is becoming almost inevitable as each side is drawn into deeper and deeper resentment, hatred and cruelty. This sectarian mindset that is taking root in Iraq is also liable to spread into surrounding countries, and bleed the Muslim Ummah to either death or debility for years to come, at a time when it can least afford to be at anything less than full-strength.
The malevolent and poisonous involvement of the United States regime in this democratization of sectarianism has been discussed before, in this column and elsewhere, where informed and observant analysts comment on the unfolding of contemporary history. It has often been pointed out that there are two tracks that the enemies of Islam in Washington can pursue to achieve their goals, which are fundamentally their own economic interests and the national security interests of the zionist state ofIsrael. The first is to identify and then heighten the tension between the "moderates" and the "extremists" in the global Islamic movement, along with their counterparts within the Islamic state of Iran, which remains central to the potential success of the Islamic movement, despite its many errors, weaknesses and problems. The second is to identify and then heighten the tensions between the Shi'i sectarians and the Sunni sectarians who are found within both the Islamic state of Iran and the wider, global Islamic movement.
In pursuit of these twin tracks, the US government will attempt to rerun the scenario that defeated the main threat to Washington in the 20th century, the threat of Marxism and socialism. A key element of this is an all-out effort, involving all aspects of its cultural and military power, to raise the conflict level among Muslims so that the strains between Shi‘is and Sunnis becomes as deep a split in the heart of the Muslim Ummah as the Sino-Soviet split was in the heart of the communist world. The recipe for this cataclysmic conflict, according to the plans laid in Washington and Tel Aviv, is Iraq first, followed by Syria. We can see how the Pentagon, controlling US policy in Iraq, and the State Department, putting political and diplomatic pressure on Syria, are both provoking and encouraging sectarian strife in the two countries. This could be the moment in history in which Sunnis and Shi‘is finally rise above their petty narrow-minded adherences to their partial and close-minded traditions and assume instead a firm, united front in pursuit of their Islamic duty of confronting American aggression and occupation. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen, as so many previous opportunities for similar stands have been missed in the past. The inability of Muslims to unite on their common ground to prevent a re-run of the Lebanese civil war, or the repetition of genocide against the Muslim Bosnians, or a re-enactment of the attempted extermination of the Muslim Kurds, can only be traced to the success that Western governments, and their agents in the Muslim world, such as the Saudi regime, have had in undermining and suppressing the spirit of independence and autonomy, and the will to sacrifice, that is supposed to come from being a Muslim of karamat (nobility) and ‘izzat (dignity).
Saudi Arabian officials and others like them all over the Muslim world, realise that they have been superseded by the Islamic state of Iran in the hearts of the Muslim masses, thanks to the role they have played in supporting the struggles of Muslims in different parts of the world, notably the Hizbullah in Lebanon and the Islamic movements that are leading the Palestinian resistance against the zionist state. It is not too late, however, for such officials (although it may soon be for their masters, such as the princelings of the Saudi regime) to atone for their political sins by using the hundreds of millions of dollars at their disposal to support the "Sunni" militants fighting for Islam in Lebanon, Palestine, Chechnya and elsewhere, or by providing logistical and other support to the "Sunni" Muslims in Iraq and Syria, in order to both reverse the growing threat of sectarianism, and possibly also to prevent the rising anger of Muslims that is liable to reach the throne in Riyadh and unseat ‘his highness’.
The growing rebellion against the United States and Israel is still in its early stages. The shape that this movement will take in future remains to be seen. The danger is that a perception in the Sunni world that their brethren in Iraq are being crushed by a combination of Kurdish nationalism, Shi'i sectarianism and American imperialism will provoke a reaction that will be more deeply sectarian and potentially more dangerous than anything we have seen to date; which may indeed make Wahhabism and Salafism appear pacifist by comparison.
But in the racist mind of a capitalist American elite a ‘good' Sunni Muslim is one who is willing to go to war against a Shi'i Muslim; and equally a ‘good' Shi'i Muslim is one who defines himself predominantly by opposition to Sunni Muslims. The Shi'i and Sunni understandings of Islam are theologically irrelevant to the zionist rulers in Tel Aviv and Washington; all that concerns them is how these differences can be exploited to bleed both to death. Ironically, the details of the differences are also irrelevant to many within both camps, for whom the conflict has become more important than its purported reasons.
The overt Shi‘i collaborators of the US in Iraq and the covert Sunni allies of the US in Arabia may well be on their way to a civil war. They seem to be totally unaware of the implications of this dangerous polarization within the Ummah that could, one day in the not so distant future, become the basis of apermanent schism. This is a prospect that informed and aware Muslims must do everything possible to avert.
The Islamic Uprising in Iran a quarter of a century ago is too important and too special for Muslims to simply watch it wander from its original and true course. We remember all too clearly the impact this breakthrough had on Muslims everywhere. For the first time in modern history, Muslims had risen against a corrupt government and its imperialist and zionist sponsors, and were able to take control of their own country, and begin to show the rest of us how things should be done.
Of course, the road forward was not likely to be smooth. The sponsors of the Pahlavi regime could not be expected to sit and watch a people shape their own future on the basis of their Islamic faith and commitment. Throughout the last 25 years, America and Israel have been working to bring the Islamic government in Iran to its knees, with the support of their Western allies, Iran’s pro-Western neighbours and even supporters within Iran. Iran’s borders amount to some 8,000 kilometers; American troops are now based across six thousand kilometers of this border. This grim scenario has been gradually built over 25 years, and has passed almost unnoticed by most Muslims, and even most Iranians. There has never been any cessation of hostilities between the followers of the line of Imam Khomeini (r.a.), who refuse to compromise when it comes to the independence and sovereignty of the Islamic state, and the numerous other interests wanting to shape the state on their terms.
Part of our object in this new column is to look at some of the gaps that have developed since the passing of Imam Khomeini (r.a.), many of which are rooted in earlier events, and how these gaps have caused serious problems about which we can no longer remain silent. But before we walk into this sensitive area, one point needs to be made absolutely clear. This is that none of the points we make are intended to express any criticism of Imam Sayyid Ali Khamenei, the successor to Imam Khomeini (r.a.) as Rahbar of the Islamic State. Many of the points we make will be highlighting natural processes in the evolution of post-Revolutionary state and society. Others will indeed involve criticism of errors and failures in Iran, mainly on the part of those who have been responsible for aspects of Iranian government and policy at the executive level. It was inevitable that such errors and failures should emerge over a quarter of a century in an unprecedented and highly-pressured historical situation; unfortunately they have contributed greatly to what many now see as the Islamic experiment’s current stagnation.
Sometimes frank statements of truth can be bitter pills to swallow; we hope no-one will consider this column to be too bitter a pill. We say what we say only to express our honest understanding of the issues. If we are correct, we appeal earnestly to Allah to accept our humble words to our humble readers. If not, we request Allah’s forgiveness and correction from anyone able to do so; without, we hope, descending into personal issues or hidden agendas. Ameen.