August 22, 2012

KNOWING YOUR ALLIES:

Don't Fear All Islamists, Fear Salafis (ROBIN WRIGHT, August 19, 2012, NY Times)

A common denominator among disparate Salafi groups is inspiration and support from Wahhabis, a puritanical strain of Sunni Islam from Saudi Arabia. Not all Saudis are Wahhabis. Not all Salafis are Wahhabis, either. But Wahhabis are basically all Salafis. And many Arabs, particularly outside the sparsely populated Gulf, suspect that Wahhabis are trying to seize the future by aiding and abetting the region's newly politicized Salafis -- as they did 30 years ago by funding the South Asian madrassas that produced Afghanistan's Taliban.

Salafis go much further in restricting political and personal life than the larger and more modern Islamist parties that have won electoral pluralities in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco since October. For most Arabs, the rallying cry is justice, both economic and political. For Salafis, it is also about a virtue that is inflexible and enforceable.

"You have two choices: heaven or hellfire," Sheikh Muhammad el-Kurdi instructed me after his election to Egypt's parliament as a member of Al Nour, a Salafi party. It favors gender segregation in schools and offices, he told me, so that men can concentrate. "It's O.K. for you to be in the room," he explained. "You are our guest, and we know why you're here. But you are one woman and we are three men -- and we all want to marry you." Marriage may have been a euphemism.

Posted by at August 22, 2012 5:09 AM
  

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