“Tolerance is a shelter against poverty.”
— Imam Ali, a.s., Sermon of Wasila
Six Shia Muslims have gone on trial in Jordan, accused of “promoting Shia ideology and instigating religious sectarianism”. Their case – the first of its kind in Jordan – is being heard behind closed doors in a military court.
Jordan is a Sunni-majority country but has no law that prevents Shias from practising their faith and its constitution says very clearly that there shall be no discrimination “on grounds of race, language or religion”.
There is no suggestion that the accused did anything more than a bit of missionary work – holding meetings, issuing membership cards and raising funds – but the case reflects a growing fear of Shia Islam among the Middle East’s Sunni regimes.
In Egypt last June, Hassan Shehata, a Shia cleric, was reportedly arrested with dozens of his followers and 13 were said to have been detained on charges of spreading Shiism.
Egypt has had a small Shia community for centuries, though today it’s probably less than 1% of the population. The sect is not officially recognised and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights has documented periods of harassment by the authorities – arrests, interrogation, torture, etc – dating back to 1988.
The Sunni Arab regimes, most of which use religious credentials to bolster their claims to legitimacy, have become increasingly apprehensive during the last few years – mainly as a result of the Iraq war, which brought Shia Muslims to power in Baghdad, to rule alongside those already in place in Tehran.
From time to time there are also outbreaks of scaremongering in the media, very similar in tone to the western newspapers articles that claim Muslims are taking over Europe. One Egyptian magazine warned of “a real danger that Egypt and other Sunni countries might be converted to Shiism“.
Shia Muslims in Sunni countries tend to be viewed as fifth-columnists with uncertain national loyalties. Shehata’s arrest seems to have been prompted by two visits he made to Iran, though it also coincided with the capture of an alleged Hezbollah spy ring.
Shia Islam – which accounts for no more than 15% of all Muslims worldwide – has certainly been making a few converts among Sunnis. A Saudi Shia told me yesterday that he personally knew of half a dozen Jordanians who had converted. More widely, though, recent events have aroused curiosity about Shiism among Sunnis and, in some cases, admiration. Iran’s uncompromising stance over its nuclear programme is contrasted favourably with the ineffectual peformance of Sunni Arab regimes. Similarly, Hezbollah’s defiance of Israel in the 2006 Lebanon war.
But there’s more to it than politics, as an article in Al-Ahram Weekly explains:
For Nabil Abdel-Fattah, who edits the State of Religion in Egypt annual report for the Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, Shia jurisprudence is dynamic, flexible and pragmatic – which makes it attractive to many a Sunni frustrated with lack of change: ‘For many years Sunnis refrained from ijtihad [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][independent thought] and tended to adopt a hardline approach similar to the Saudi Wahhabi model.’ For Sunnis this tendency, Abdel-Fattah elaborates, has led to a gap separating daily life from religious provisions, driving Sunnis to embrace Shiism.
Other factors include the erosion of spirituality from Sunni life, with no provision for anything comparable to the Passion of Christ, to which Egyptians arguably relate. [In contrast to Sunni – and especially Wahhabi – puritanism, many Shia practices are much more akin to Spanish or Italian Catholicism.]
Less obviously, the fact that millions of Egyptians have worked in the Gulf countries since the 1970s makes the population more open to different schools of thought.
Shia Islam’s links with Iran (and, by implication, with the Iranian regime) have parallels in Judaism’s association with Israel and Israeli government policies. As in debates about antisemitism, the line between politics and prejudice easily becomes confused.
Regardless of what the Iranian government does, though, Shia Muslims in Sunni countries have every right to practise their faith and, if they wish, to try to convert others.
It may worry the Sunni regimes but it also worries the Wahhabi/Salafi elements whose ideology has often gone unchallenged in the public discourse. Exposing Arab Muslims to alternative interpretations of their faith will open their eyes to new ideas and possibilities. And, in the long run, that can only be beneficial.
by Brian Whitaker of guardian.co.uk | © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
Well, it’s not, actually. But I’m trying to felt one doll for Dori, so far it was fun, now the poor thing lays around the main bedroom window, half dead half alive and certainly rather creepy (limbless), because I seem to be incapable to push myself into felting it some feet and arms, so I can dress it.
I should, though. The boxes for Kuwait with most of the stuff we have will be shipped very soon, and I won’t have much things left to do. Also, I intended to finish the toy before departing, so Dori can have it matched with her felted purse, which she – I’m happy – likes and wears.
Somewhere in between folding clothes I decided that I don’t want anymore and digging through the stacks of stuff on the floor I stopped and realized that yesterday night I played around wet felting, and tried to make a piece of felted wool.
Leaving the things unsorted and laying around, I sat in the middle and decided to shape it a bit, and from a flat piece of tangled wool it became to be a purse for Dori, since I promised her a bag before we’ll move away. The cloth wasn’t even remotely close to the size of a backpack, but ’twas enough to sew a pocket from it.
I additionally wet felted the strap for it during the process, cheating a bit later on with ironing and flapping it around instead of hot-cold-hot-cold water, and using few parts of unwanted pants and old underscarf I managed to stitch it up to the shape reminding a purse.
Dori is happy, it actually seems to hang on and survive few days of handling around the world, and my fingers scream “no more needles, please”, but I’m overally satisfied with the result – for the first attempt, I mean. And it felted some of the I’m-so-freaking-out-like-seriously-freaking-out away.
Abu is in London now and I’m sitting in a living room, watching Dumbo with my daughter and avoiding the look at the side of the room, where a huge stack of empty cartoon boxes is waiting for me to take some action and fill them up with my books, clothes, hijabs, Dori’s toys and pyjamas and smug my felting needles somehow among the stuff so they won’t break – who has illusions about the gentle care of moving companies anyways. And, if it happens and they actually are gentle, the shipping through the air almost makes it certain that there will happen some accidental (or not) drop here and there, as what happened to my baby trolley. And yes, I still didn’t forgive Easy Jet the drop of my coach from plane on the ground instead of putting in on the moving trail. But hey, who am I to judge the probably miserably paid workers there, right?
Anyways, just simply trying to think of what to pack, what to throw and what to drag to PDSA charity shop (the things still in considerable condition) where I dropped in today to ask them if they would fancy some of our stuff which would be thrown on the street in the other case.
I’ve got lotsa stuff. I mean, loootsa. The difference between my dear husband and me packing is significant now and I strongly suspect that he doesn’t understand it. The thing is, he’s going back home. He can afford, up to certain point, to leave most of the things behind without much harm. I, on the other hand, am moving to new country. Somewhere else. Where I’ve never been before. So I have that urge to hang on even pretty silly things like mussels gathered at the sea or flower pots (with the flowers if possible) or the skimmer I’ve got from my mum when moving from Czech to Newcastle. Because these normally insignificant things are what creates my “home” at this time and taking as much known and homey with me makes me feel more cosy with all that circus.
Yes, I know I’m probably just oversensitive, but I can’t help it.
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