Saturday, April 21, 2007

My absence .. and Sectarianism

Just to remind my readers that I’m here, I’m posting my response to Henry Porter’s Guardian article ‘When Will Islam Damn the Chlorine Bombers?’ The article is at

I’m tremendously busy at the moment. I should be able to post properly in a couple of weeks' time. In the meantime, here’s my Commentisfree response:

I agree with Porter's general point that there has not been enough official Muslim condemnation of the Salafi nihilist sectarian killers at work in Iraq. This is because the pro-American order in the Arab world (the Sauds and Hashemites and Mubaraks) has been busy rabble-rousing against Iran and the Shia - hoping to defuse anger against imperialism and its puppets by provoking sectarian and ethnic hatreds. And also because, yes, thre is a serious problem in the Muslim (especially Arab) world of Wahhabi intolerance and literalism, and many people do not realise the extent of the danger. Wahhabism appeals in terms of its anti-Westernism, but of course it has previously been America's greatest Arab ally (against Communism, then against revolutionary Iran) in the region. It causes 'fitna' (dissension) among Muslims, and seeks to erase the riches of Islamic history, philosophy, diversity, and mysticism. Its foot soldiers are deracinated and confused - the products of a brutal Middle Eastern modernism.

However, I must say that there are many unofficial Muslim voices condemning the terrorism. I live in a non-Wahhabi Gulf state, and my family are Syrian. (I have plenty of Lebanese and Iraqi friends). People cheer for the anti-American resistance, but bitterly condemn the 'dogs' and 'agents' responsible for violence against civilians. Syrians in particular fear the wild sectarianism that has established itself in Iraq, and worry that the same could happen in their own diverse and divided society.

Not everybody of course. I've heard Syrian villagers and taxi drivers spout the most obscene sectarian hatred. Ethnic and sectarian divisions are rife in the Middle East, and the chaos unleashed by the destruction of Iraq has been fuel for them.

I also disagree with Porter's comment that Western forces would leave Iraq quicker if there was less bloodshed. This is what they tell the Iraqi and Western publics, but it's obviously not true. Why spend so much money building huge permanent bases inside Iraq? Why provoke the sectarian war in the first place, by many steps, not least Negroponte's Central American style death squads made up of Shia and Kurdish militiamen operating in Sunni areas.