I grew up in a Shia town, my wife is from a Shia town and I studied near another Shia town. So have some connections there. And now I am reading Persian. The Shia Sunni split is a deep deep one and instead of improving like the Protestant / Catholic one, its getting deeper and more dangerous. And yes, its primarily due to the Sunni intelligentsia on TV, the various madrassahs and more crucially, the common Sunni who generally seems to have this visceral hatred towards his brothers. You keep on hearing about Shia shrines and Sufi shrines being blown up and being vituperated against. (dont get me wrong, the Shia are no less in their discrimination, think about how they treat the Bahai, plus they do have a strong streak of victimisation and moaning but that’s not an excuse). I know, i know broad generalisation but what the heck.
One of my interests is Islamic Law (mainly in the Islamic Finance area) so I follow this chap. He is a very smart fellow, very erudite and writes powerfully but when I read this, I was taken aback. This was some powerful stuff. I quote:
It could be that I’m just too tired and jet lagged. Or it could be the sheer exhaustion of having to deal, yet again, with the same exclusionary and alienating anti-Shiism that seems to flow almost naturally from the lips of all too many of my Arab brethren. Or it could be that I have to listen to all of it during our holiest times, when you’d think there would be an extra effort made at mutual respect and tolerance, rather than the reverse. But whatever it is, I’ve had it. As an “other” in the Arab world (a Shi’i Arab) married to a different other (a Kurdish Iraqi) in that same world, I feel alienated and abandoned, and I have decided to give my frustrations voice. There remains to us no place for the “others”, with or without an Arab spring. ….
You just have to assume for these purposes that Israel is horrible because it is a Jewish state that discriminates against Arabs, which is different than an Arab state that regards vast numbers of its own citizens as Persians and Persians as unfit for equal citizenship in their societies. Make sense? Of course not, so let’s move on.) …..
I suppose it is too much to expect much help from religious leaders when the general trends among educated and poorly educated, native and abroad alike, are so depressingly similarly bigoted. But in any case it isn’t there. Yusuf Qaradawi is more than happy to fan the flames of sectarian hatred for more television time, perfectly happy to abandon Bahrain’s Shi’a and talk seriously of democracy in Syria or Egypt. He lies unchallenged, Yusuf says what the masses want to hear, and it’s pretty clear they want to hear this. I used to regard his pronouncements with some detached bemusement, one day it’s okay to kill American soldiers in Iraq, the next it’s okay to be a Muslim American soldier in Afghanistan. What day of the week is it? I can tell you if it’s okay to kill Jewish children according to the Great Shaykh. It was a mistake to be so accommodating to Yusuf the shameless demagogue, his complete lack of scruples even as to human life deserved more criticism than I delivered. A prostitute exercises more discrimination than Yusuf Qaradawi, with due apologies to the prostitutes for comparing them to such a detestable man…..
and then the closure was just straight.
But today is the day of Ashura, our sacred holy day, the day of the martyrdom of the Prophet’s grandson, and after all that has occurred, and in great physical and psychic exhaustion, I wish to give license to my heart and not my head, for just this day, just this once, so you know how we,the others in the Arab midst, feel. Here’s what I think today, or feel rather, straight from the heart.
Tyranny or democracy, it’s always the same in the Arab world. You won’t accept us, you won’t even make an effort to see the world through our eyes. You demand loyalty and offer no tolerance. You ask for support, and abandon us or are silent when our children our killed. When you come to accept the others, and all the others, Jew and Christian, Shi’i and Druze, black and Berber, when you hear an insult as against a Shi’i on his holy day you take it as an insult to you, when you see a church bombed, you take it as a mosque bombed, when some modicum of mutual respect, honor and tolerance reaches or even just perceptibly registers somehow in civil discourse, penetrates even one tenth of a millimeter, give us all a call, we’d love to join in. Until then, go fuck yourselves.
Your faithful Persian,
I guess he wont be sending Christmas Cards to the Sunni Arabs then . Happy Ashura…