Spewing sectarianism from the pulpit

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Catherine Shakdam

Dhu al-Hijjah 29, 1437 2016-10-01

Special Reports

by Catherine Shakdam (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 45, No. 8, Dhu al-Hijjah, 1437)

After Saudi Grand Mufti ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Aal al-Shaykh, blind in more ways than one, said that Iranians “are not Muslims, for they are descendants of Majus…” spokespersons for the royals quickly backtracked saying that the shaykh’s statements do not reflect state policy. But is it possible for just anyone to become the grand mufti and the imam of the Haram without state approval and state endorsement? Or should his statements be taken in the same light as those of retired Saudi general Anwar Eshki, who made some “personal” comments while he was meeting with Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the UN.

Saudi court preachers miss no opportunity to vilify the Shias. They do not shy away from using even the most sacred platforms, such as the minbar, to spewing hatred.

Today Islam is regularly labelled as violent and reactionary — a faith crafted in the image of those who have usurped its name to serve their nefarious agenda, and made them the enemy of humanity. The great faith of Islam, it needs to be said, has suffered a great deal under Western misapprehension, its scripture sullied by men’s ambitions, its message darkened by the injustice of tyrants, who, from their palaces have claimed legitimacy that they never possessed. In short, Islam today has been made synonymous with bloodshed and terror.

Muslims are vilified and sold as meat to the media that act as beasts in a Roman arena. Rome would be proud of its new Games. And from the ashes, it is liberal secularism that has been deified. But Islam lives not on the lips of Wahhabism and its poisoned fruit of radicalism, whether al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Da‘ish… but in the hearts of truly committed Muslims.

Islam is far above the self-serving politics of men, and the bigotry of hypocritical zealots. Islam, beyond all schools of thought and labels remains unity in the word of God. Regardless of what many might have claimed Islam to be, it cannot be spoken of as spreading hatred and injustice. Islam cannot be lived in oppression and repression or reconciled with them.

While countless Muslims have come to unequivocally reject terror, the world still chooses to see in Muslims the hand of darkness — an abomination that must be destroyed and never allowed to rise again. As a people, Muslims have endured worldwide persecution while terror has grown bold in its arrogance. Terror feels secure in its friendships with and strong in the wealth of the tyrants. But what is the nature of terror’s power, and more importantly what agenda does it work to manifest?

Last month, terror was spoken in the holy city of Makkah, only meters away from the Ka‘bah, the holiest of all holy grounds — the one place Muslims turn to in prayers. Makkah, the abode of peace and security, as the noble Qur’an states (2:126), echoed with hate and brutal sectarianism, a mirror to the vicious radicalism of Wahhabism; a confession one may say of the Kingdom’s true nature.

“O Allah, grant victory, dignity, and empowerment to our brother mujahidin [jihadists] in Yemen,” the imam invoked in Arabic. “In Sham [Syria], and Iraq, and everywhere. O Lord of the Worlds, grant them victory over the godless Rafidah [Shi‘i Muslims].” The prayer was broadcast live on Egyptian TV channel al-Qaherah wa-al-Nas. The imam intoned further, “Grant them victory over the treacherous Jews, and over the spiteful Christians, and over the untrusted hypocrites… O Allah, grant them victory, help and strength.”

Should readers still be unclear about the identity of those “mujahidin,” one need only look at those so-called “moderates” the United States has been so keen on aiding and abetting in Syria. Those are the men Makkah’s imam is raising to the status of martyrs. Those are the men Wahhabism has praised and beatified to the populace. Those men are the arms and legs of terror that have run amok in Muslim lands.

One might argue that Saudi Arabia’s prayer was but a confirmation and affirmation of Wahhabism’s inner dogmatic sanctum: absolute intolerance. Of Wahhabism’s genocidal cries, not a word was spoken in the press. In the face of such admission of blatant sectarianism and blind hatred for Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, not a minute of airtime was spared. Instead, all emphasis was on political rapprochement and economic co-dependency.

Saudi Arabia is after all Israel’s new friend in the region and America’s strongest bulwark against terrorism. Indeed, what a perfect partner to have with those who openly seek the destruction of the Judeo-Christian world. If not for human decency and ethic, one would have expected the West to denounce such a statement out of self-preservation. But rebuked Saudi Arabia was not! It was rewarded rather by way of military empowerment with the sale of another $1.15 billion worth of weapons to be used against impoverished Yemen.

Then came the “coup de grace”, the statement to end all statements: Islam was claimed entirely by Wahhabism’s court clergy. Grand Mufti ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Aal al-Shaykh, a descendant of Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab (founder of the obscurantist Wahhabi dogma), announced atop his pulpit ahead of Hajj pilgrimage that Iranians were not in fact Muslims. “We must understand they [Iranians] are not Muslims, for they are the descendants of Majus, and their enmity toward Muslims, especially the Sunnis, is very old,” the Saudi cleric thundered.

His attack, it needs to be said, was really directed at Shi‘i Islam — the whole of Shi‘i Islam. His attack embodies what Wahhabism truly is: a vengeful, reactionary dogma whose cornerstone was laid upon the blood of thousands of innocents, many of them pilgrims. If the West willingly ignored Saudi Arabia’s death threats, Iran was not prepared to suffer such ignorant intolerance.

Tehran was swift in its answer. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, tweeted by way of a comeback, “Indeed; no resemblance between Islam of Iranians and most Muslims [on the one hand] and bigoted extremism that Wahhabi top cleric and Saudi terror masters preach [on the other hand].” If people are to be judged by who their ancestors were, perhaps the Wahhabis should remember that their forefathers worshipped Lat and Manat!

While Riyadh has hardly ever practised contrition in its political affairs, the Grand Mufti’s public rejection of Shi‘i Islam was likely too much of an admission of hate for the Kingdom to handle, and so Riyadh had to disown its most senior cleric, and muzzle his religious zeal.

Commenting on the growing rift between Saudi Arabia and Iran following the chief clerk’s intemperate remarks, Al-Monitor revealed last month, “Riyadh sent Tehran a message through unofficial channels clarifying that the grand mufti’s inflammatory comments were not an official position.”

“The latest comments by the Saudi mufti should be put into the accompanying context,” former Saudi diplomat Abdullah Shammari noted in an interview with Al-Monitor. “The interview was on the phone, and it reflects an angry personal point of view after the Iranian Supreme Leader’s message that crossed all red lines.” He added, “The comments are personal and political and can’t be regarded as a religious fatwa.”

Whatever rationale Riyadh presented for both events, it does not make the genie any closer to going back into the bottle. Saudi Arabia has made its intentions known when it declared terror to be its righteous army, and Islam as its avowed enemy. The Bani Saud regime is digging its own grave.

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