February 14, 2007


Sunni vs. Shi'a: It's Not All Islam (Ralph Peters, 2/14/07, Real Clear Politics)

[T]he biggest obstacle to establishing the Caliphate in California is that Shi'a "Islam" never bought into the Caliphate at all. At bottom, it's a different religion from Sunni Islam. They're not just different branches of a faith, as with Protestantism and Catholicism, but separate faiths whose core differences are more-pronounced than those between Christians and Jews.

Technically, Sunni militants are correct when they label the Shi'a "heretics." Persians and their closest neighbors, with long memories of great civilizations, were never comfortable with the crudeness of Arabian Islam--which the anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss aptly called "a barracks religion."

The struggle has never ended between the ascetic, intolerant Bedouin faith of Arabia, with its fascist obsession on behavior, and the profound theologies of Persian civilization that absorbed and transformed Islam. While Shi'ism only prevailed in Persia within the last millennium (nudging out Sunni Islam at last), "Aryan" Islam had long been shaped by Zoroastrianism and other ineradicable pre-Islamic legacies.

Persians made the new faith their own, incorporating cherished traditions--just as northern Europeans made Christianity their own through Protestantism. It's illuminating to hear Iran's president rumor the return of the Twelfth Imam, since the coming of that messiah figure is pure Zoroastrianism, with no connection to the Koran or the Hadiths.

Even the rhetoric of Iran's Islamic Revolution, condemning the U.S. as the "Great Satan" divided the world into forces of light and darkness--Zoroaster again, as well as Mani, the dualist whose followers we know as "Manicheans." Iranians excitedly deny such pre-Islamic influences--then worship at the ancient shrines of re-invented saints, celebrate the Zoroastrian New Year, and incorporate fire rites into social events.

The Prophet's attempt to discipline Arabian hillbillies produced a faith ill-fitted to Persia's complex civilization--or to Mesopotamian Arabs, who despised the illiterate desert nomads. Islam was bound to change as it occupied this haunted real estate.

What we've gotten ourselves involved in today is an old and endless struggle between the desert and the city, between civilization and barbarism. Long oppression may have made Shi'ism appear backward, but it's inherently a richer faith than Sunni Islam. With its End-of-Times vision, founding martyrs and radiant angels, its mysticism and wariness of the flesh, Shi'ism is closer to Christianity than check-list Sunni Islam ever could be.

Indeed, given how fiercely Judaism reacted against its own messianism because of Christianity, it's not that clear that the core differences between Sunni and Shi'a are that different. Meanwhile, they sound like their opposites who claim the Administration staged 9-11.

Sunni rebels blamed for deadly attack on elite Iranian guards (Robert Tait, February 14, 2007, Guardian Unlimited)

Sunni rebels allegedly linked to al-Qaida were blamed for a deadly car bomb attack which destroyed a bus and killed at least 11 Revolutionary Guards today in the latest outbreak of violence to strike one of Iran's most unstable provinces.

The attack took place in the Sistan-Baluchestan provincial capital, Zahedan, in south-east Iran, as the guards were being bussed to work. Witnesses said the bus was travelling in the city's Ahmadabad district when it was overtaken by a car which then stopped suddenly.

The car's occupants jumped out seconds before it exploded and fled in motorcycles parked nearby. Television footage showed the bus, which had 24 passengers, reduced to a mess of twisted wreckage.

The semi-official Fars news agency reported that Jundallah, a Sunni militant group widely blamed for a series of previous attacks in the province, had claimed responsibility. Iranian officials branded the incident a terrorist attack carried out by "insurgents and elements of insecurity".

The Islamophobes must now square the circle of their theory that the Iranians are behind such attacks.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 14, 2007 12:00 AM

As opposed to the Isamophiles who claim it's done by wood sprites and fairies, because no Muslim could ever possibly do such things.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at February 14, 2007 3:05 PM

No one says Muslims didn't do it.

Posted by: oj at February 14, 2007 6:20 PM

President Bush is an Islamaphobe?

Posted by: BtC at February 14, 2007 7:28 PM

No, he's just cooking up a pretext for war with Iran, like any president. Look for him to claim they sunk the Maine next.

Posted by: oj at February 14, 2007 8:53 PM

More confusion to the enemy, as Mr. Gots might say. And if they are 'rebels', they are still from Iran, no?

Is the picture of your book meant to defend the mullahs in their legitimate "leadership" of Iran?

Posted by: ratbert at February 15, 2007 12:02 AM

No, Mr. Peters let us use on of his essays in the book.

You appear to be confused about this whole Muslim thing. What does it matter if they're Iranian? The North and South were both American, are you unable to distinguish between their causes?

Posted by: oj at February 15, 2007 7:16 AM

I'm not the one who is accusing people who doubt Iran's "leadership" of Islamophobia.

Posted by: ratbert at February 15, 2007 9:46 AM

No, you're the one who thinks one Iranian or one Muslim is identical to the next.

Posted by: oj at February 15, 2007 12:19 PM

No, I'm with those who see that the overall leadership in Iran is evil. There are no good guys on the political horizon there, because they are cut off from the process.

There are plenty of differences among Muslims. But there aren't many differences between the radical nutjob screamers who just want to chant and kill, be they Sunni, Shi'a, or merely confused wannabes.

Posted by: ratbert at February 15, 2007 12:43 PM

Ah, the trusty "only good one is a dead one" psychoses. It's the dangdest thing but your inability to differentiate among people doesn't actually make them the same.

Posted by: oj at February 15, 2007 3:13 PM