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Are The Terrorists Mostly Sunni or Shiite?
Vanity

Posted on 07/17/2005 10:05:08 AM PDT by Tampa Caver

Come someone enlighten me on the general grouping of the Islamist terrorists that are mostly involved in the terror cells outside the Islamic nations? Are mosques outside these nations segregated as to Sunni and Shiite affiliation? If so, are there certain mosques we should be aware of that are of that affiliation? Thanks for any info.


TOPICS: News/Current Events; Your Opinion/Questions
KEYWORDS: islam; muslims; radicalmuslims; terrorism
I haven't seen this discussed and would like comments please.
1 posted on 07/17/2005 10:05:09 AM PDT by Tampa Caver
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To: Tampa Caver
I think they're mostly sunni. Shiites play a large part in funding terrorism though.
2 posted on 07/17/2005 10:07:49 AM PDT by cripplecreek (If a democrats lips are moving, they're lying.)
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To: USF

Ping


3 posted on 07/17/2005 10:07:54 AM PDT by Dark Skies (All Muslims aren't evil...just the real ones.)
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To: Tampa Caver

".....are there certain mosques we should be aware of that are of that affiliation?"

Yes. The ones with Minarets.


4 posted on 07/17/2005 10:09:39 AM PDT by Vn_survivor_67-68
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To: Tampa Caver

they are just about all muslim...


5 posted on 07/17/2005 10:11:01 AM PDT by God luvs America (When the silent majority speaks the earth trembles!)
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To: Tampa Caver
From what I can tell it's the sunnis in Iraq, the shiites in Iran. At this point I'm assuming pretty much both collectives are the enemy.
6 posted on 07/17/2005 10:13:50 AM PDT by lizma
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To: cripplecreek

we mustn't forget the show put on for the world when the shi'ite fundamentalists in Iran when jimi carter installed ayatollah khomeini..

islam is islam, no matter what mask it wears in any time or place.


7 posted on 07/17/2005 10:15:01 AM PDT by Vn_survivor_67-68
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To: Tampa Caver
I have a simpler approach.
I don't care.

Let God sort them out.

Nice technique to deflect from focusing on the real problem though: they're out to kill us. Let's do more to prevent it.

8 posted on 07/17/2005 10:15:26 AM PDT by Publius6961 (The most abundant things in the universe are ignorance, stupidity and hydrogen)
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To: Tampa Caver
Are The Terrorists Mostly Sunni or Shiite?

Well, the concise answer would be, They're all Muslim.

9 posted on 07/17/2005 10:15:30 AM PDT by ThreePuttinDude (Allah, is not... Akbar)
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To: lizma

I'd say mostly Sunni.

Hizballah in Lebanon is a Shiite group, supported by Syria, which has a Sunni majority population but an Allawite (Shiite) government. Iran's Shiite, too, of course.

In Iraq, the young Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr set up a large militia last year, but a combination of US attacks and mainstream Shiite condemnation seem to have shut him up.

The Sunni tribesmen from Anbar Province are the real hardcore bastards in Iraq, and they're the ones who work with the terrorists coming from all over the Arab world to fight and die in Iraq.

The Taliban and Al Qaeda are obviously Sunni. The Wahhabis who finance most of the extreme Islamic education worldwide that produces terrorists are Sunni. Most Pakistanis are Sunni, including, I assume, the London terrorists. And the Egyptians are Sunni too.

The three main sources of Islamic thought - Egypt, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia - are all Sunni.


10 posted on 07/17/2005 10:20:17 AM PDT by ThreeTracks
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Comment #11 Removed by Moderator

To: lizma

Do you know if Shiites and Sunni worship together outside the Islamic world or are their mosques "segregated"? From what I've read, they don't like each other too well and in fact despise each other due to a historic chasm in prophets and leadership way in the past. I would also like to know if there is animosity due to racial heritage. I know Iran is primarily Indo-European ancestry while most of the others states are Semitic or Arab in heritage. Does anyone know what sect is in the majority in the Phillipines and Indonesia


12 posted on 07/17/2005 10:26:01 AM PDT by Tampa Caver
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To: ThreeTracks

"The Taliban and Al Qaeda are obviously Sunni. The Wahhabis who finance most of the extreme Islamic education worldwide that produces terrorists are Sunni. Most Pakistanis are Sunni, including, I assume, the London terrorists. And the Egyptians are Sunni too."

Yep, yep and yep.

The wahhabis are at the root of the evil IMHO.


13 posted on 07/17/2005 10:27:39 AM PDT by Voir Dire (Modern liberalism is a Communist plot)
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To: Tampa Caver

Jihad, per se, evidently is a Shiite concept. However, the aggressive fundamentalism of the Wahabi is Sunni and emanates from Saudia Arabia. The Madrassas that appear to be influential in radicalizing muslim youth are I believe Sunni dominated.

In short the answer is that both sects provide terrorists.


14 posted on 07/17/2005 10:27:39 AM PDT by bjc (Check the data!!)
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To: Tampa Caver

In Iraq they are almost all Sunni and target a lot of Shiites. This whole muslim terrorism thing is becoming more of a cult than anything else. It's like calling Jim Jones group Christian.


15 posted on 07/17/2005 10:30:26 AM PDT by Casloy
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To: Casloy

This is the crux of my questioning. Not to deflect from the real issue but to obtain a working knowledge for later use. I say "Know thy enemies". It's easy to say 'kill them all'. The Jim Jones thought is interesting. Thanks


16 posted on 07/17/2005 10:34:24 AM PDT by Tampa Caver
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To: bjc

Doesn't matter because it always the Jews, or Bush, or Blair.


17 posted on 07/17/2005 10:37:07 AM PDT by ncountylee (Dead terrorists smell like victory)
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To: ThreeTracks; Tampa Caver
That looks like a credible answer, thank you very much, ThreeTracks. I was wondering the same myself.

Ten years ago I crossed paths with an old high school WASP classmate who said she'd converted to Sunni, a sect I knew nothing about, but it has haunted me since Sunni has become part of our vocabulary. I know where she is but haven't seen her in a decade. I wonder how she stands now.
18 posted on 07/17/2005 10:39:47 AM PDT by Lady Jag (Honor - Dignity - Courage - Loyalty)
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To: ThreeTracks

So Wahhabism is the Sunni extreme element. Is there a equivalent group on the Shiite side? I know about the Wahhabis already. Any thoughts on if they have separate mosques like, say, in the US and England. My eventual line of thought is to know if they will one day coalesce into one large grouping for political purposes eventually.


19 posted on 07/17/2005 10:50:40 AM PDT by Tampa Caver
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To: Tampa Caver
I think there's a typo in your title. A couple of extra vowels.


Scared Bunny Blog
Not for the timid

20 posted on 07/17/2005 10:53:38 AM PDT by sharktrager (My life is like a box of chocolates, but someone took all the good ones.)
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To: Tampa Caver

In Iraq, they're Sunni.

In Iran, they're shiite.


21 posted on 07/17/2005 10:54:19 AM PDT by Maceman
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To: Tampa Caver
Most Moslems are Sunni (85%?), so therefore, most terrorists are Sunni.

In Islam, you are a Moslem, or you are an animal.

One of their principle rules is that it is not permitted to take a life, unless it is in retribution for taking a life, or in retribution for "creating disorder in the land".

Nice loophole, eh? Pretty much allows them to slaughter anyone of any other faith or of no faith.

That religion is intolerant to the core, and if other religions are to survive their overt AND THEIR INSIDIOUS aggression, it must itself not be tolerated.
22 posted on 07/17/2005 11:01:42 AM PDT by Born to Conserve
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To: Tampa Caver
So Wahhabism is the Sunni extreme element. Is there a equivalent group on the Shiite side?

The Shiites didn't need any help.
23 posted on 07/17/2005 11:02:58 AM PDT by UnbelievingScumOnTheOtherSide (Give Them Liberty Or Give Them Death! - IT'S ISLAM, STUPID! - Islam Delenda Est! - Rumble thee forth)
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To: Tampa Caver
Sunni. About 85 percent of Muslims are part of the Sunni sect. I've yet to come across what caused the deep divide other than politics.

But it does seem mosques even in the US are very segregated. I'll do some googling.

24 posted on 07/17/2005 11:04:23 AM PDT by lizma
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To: Tampa Caver
I took a good SHIITE when I got up today. My wife thought I was a Terrorist.

Please don't squeeze the Charmin.

25 posted on 07/17/2005 11:09:22 AM PDT by JOE6PAK (My Tagline can beat the crap outta your Tagline!)
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To: Tampa Caver

Philippines and Indonesia are Sunni.

There really are few large Shiite communities and only a few countries with Shiite majorities.

Around the world Shiites very rarely share mosques with Sunnis. I suppose they could if both are present only in small numbers.

The chasm is not just in prophets and leadership but in the nature of religious law, which is all-important for Muslims.

Shiites are also not monolithic, there being many flavors of Shiite belief, many grossly incompatible with each other.

Sunni beliefs are basically compatible, its pretty much a range of severity and permitted variety.


26 posted on 07/17/2005 11:16:53 AM PDT by buwaya
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To: lizma

Many years ago, I read some history about the Muslim religion. The schism started very shortly after Mohhammed (sp?) died, like a grandson or nephew that claimed inheritance to the title. A family feud so to speak. Don't the Wahabbis consider all other Muslims to be infidels too? How can they tolerate the other sects and not try to wipe them out like the Christians and Jews? I also understand that Mohhammed lived in a Jewish-dominated town before his rise to religious power and this is why there is a considerable amount of Hebrew background in Islam today. He probably disliked them from the start and that is now reflected in modern Islamist thought. If anyone knows otherwise, please comment.


27 posted on 07/17/2005 11:30:09 AM PDT by Tampa Caver
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To: Tampa Caver
A very good friend of mine - over 20 eyars - is a sunni from Afghanistan. His father - a doctor and member of the royakl family - was killed by the Soviets. He's now a naturalized citizen of the USA, and I wouldn't be afraid to trust him with my life.

He always maintained that in Afghanistan the Shiites were the terrorists, the sunni's were fairly peacful. The big problem as he saw it is that no matter which persuasion they are, they're all back in the stone age. Most outside of the cities just don't have the ability to grasp the Modern World.

Hence a lot of religious wackos on both sides.

FWIW.

prisoner6

28 posted on 07/17/2005 12:26:47 PM PDT by prisoner6 (Right Wing Nuts hold the country together as the loose screws of the left fall out!)
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To: Tampa Caver

Sunnis are the majority pretty much everywhere except Iraq and Iran. Except for Iran, the major non-Arab Muslim populations -- such as Pakistan, India, and Indonesia are mostly Sunni.


29 posted on 07/17/2005 12:36:56 PM PDT by ChicagoHebrew (Hell exists, it is real. It's a quiet green meadow populated entirely by Arab goat herders.)
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To: Tampa Caver

I saw a book review of a book on suicide bombers. My recollection is that there have been no Iranian Shiite suicide bombers. There may have been Arab Shiite suicide bombers in Israel -- I'm not sure. The vast majority appear to be either Arab Sunnis influenced by the Wahhabi branch of Islam or Pakistani suicide bomber influenced by the Deobandist branch of Islam.

Suicide bombers are not all Muslims. The suicide vest was first used by the woman who killed Rajiv Ghandi in '91. She was a Tamil Tiger and a Hindu. The Tamil Tigers originated and perfected the technique, and they have launched more suicide bomb attacks than any other group.


30 posted on 07/17/2005 12:57:44 PM PDT by Lessismore
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To: Tampa Caver

I saw a book review of a book on suicide bombers. My recollection is that there have been no Iranian Shiite suicide bombers. There may have been Arab Shiite suicide bombers in Israel -- I'm not sure. The vast majority appear to be either Arab Sunnis influenced by the Wahhabi branch of Islam or Pakistani suicide bomber influenced by the Deobandist branch of Islam.

Suicide bombers are not all Muslims. The suicide vest was first used by the woman who killed Rajiv Ghandi in '91. She was a Tamil Tiger and a Hindu. The Tamil Tigers originated and perfected the technique, and they have launched more suicide bomb attacks than any other group.


31 posted on 07/17/2005 12:59:08 PM PDT by Lessismore
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To: Tampa Caver
Most Muslims are Sunni, the Shia are a minority and especially so outside Iran. Most Muslim terrorists are from various "literalist" sects. The Wahhabis of Saudia Arabia are one such, and have extensive financing abroad. Followers of the medieval theologian Ibn Tayymia are a somewhat broader group (that includes Wahhabis). There is a traditional literalist group in Islamic law that is broader still, who follow legal decisions of Hanbal, one of the four traditional schools of Islamic law and the most literalist one. All of those are what we'd think of as Sunni fundamentalists, not all of them are terrorists (though Ibn Tayymia was a pretty ferocious bigot in his writings, and following him is a sign of treating Islam as a fundamental political identity).

Shia believe in authority rather than in literalism. That is, the highest appeal to a literalist is to the text of the Koran. The highest appeal to a Shia is to a particular living man regarded as their leader and learned authority. This has been compared to having bishops (theirs are "ayatollahs") compared to every individual with his Koran being his own decision maker. As such, Shia and Sunni fundamentalists have a serious political disagreement over how questions of what is Islamic are decided. But in practice, if a given Shia leader stays close to the text of the Koran in his own rulings and orders, they will both agree on many things. Shia aren't monolithic, though - they follow different exemplars who have different political tacks.

Sistani is an Iraqi moderate for instance, and in power basically, while the lesser Sadr is a young extremist, followed only by a small sect. Montazeri in Iran is for reforms and a freer and more secular state, has excellent Islamic "credentials" and seniority, but little power and is under house arrest, while Khameni is the effective ruler of the country and an extremist. The Iranian extremists support Hezbollah in Lebanon, basically their Shiite terrorist army against Israel. Khomeni was an extremist and ran the Iranian revolution. So there are certainly Shiite terrorists, including ones operating outside of their own countries.

The mainline of Islamic radicalism dates back to the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt in the 1920s. They were Sunnis and fundamentalists, but not Wahhabis. Wahhabis took over Arabia around that time, and founded the House of Saud, displacing the Sunni but not Wahhabi descendents of the Sherifs of Mecca. Fundamentalist Islamicists fought with modernizing, secular Arab nationalists (those who speak the Arab language, as distinct from e.g. Turks or Persians) for leadership of anti-western resistence movements through the WW II period and the early cold war. Some of them frankly communist, some of them varieties of fascist in political orientation. The PLO came out of secular terrorist organizations, for example, funded by the Soviet Union. While Hamas is a fundamentalist Islamic terrorist organization.

So there were Arab terrorists who weren't particularly religious, and Muslim terrorists who weren't Arab or Sunni, but Persian and Shia (in the Iranian revolution e.g.). Political extremism and terrorist violence was used by all of them, it was not restricted to Sunni fundamentalists. Nevertheless, the fundamentalist Sunnis have been gaining in influence over time. They have strong ideological cards - literalism as a source of Islamic identity "plays well" - and funding, coming from oil money and protection rackets. Bin Laden is a Sunni fundamentalist.

In Iraq today, there are terrorist opponents from all of these groups. There are foreign Sunni fundamentalists coming to fight us as part of Bin Laden's jihad. There are domestic secularist Baaths who are basically godless fascists and mere gangsters, from the former ruling party - particularly common among the Sunni minority in the middle of the country, but not particularly religious. That is just the ethnic group Saddam was from and that he favored, made the ruling class in his tyranny. Most of the Shia majority follow Sistani or other moderates and want democracy, because it is putting them in control of the country. Some Shia radicals like Sadr, who is supported by Iran, want to fight the US anyway and don't want a democracy but a theocracy under Shia authority figures, as in Iran.

All of the above fight us and occasionally each other, and several of them (Baathists, external Sunni fundamentalists working for Bin Laden) are trying to foment civil war between the other factions, to make the country ungovernable. Because all they actually agree on is (1) wanting us gone and (2) not wanting a democracy led by moderate Shia in charge of the place. If those failed and power were lying in the street, they'd soon be at each other's throats over who got the "spoils".

The main group trying to internationalize the conflict and attack the west are the Sunni fundamentalists. They do so for internal consumption within the Islamic world, more than for the sake of any effect it might have on us or on our policies. They are trying to look tougher than the other factions, more willing to take on the big bad foreigners. They smear all the other factions as lackies of the west and of the Jews, lukewarm Muslims, and claim a right to lead the Islamic world based on their superior zeal, defiance, bravery, ruthlessness, and the supposed literalist purity of their version of Islam.

I hope that helps.

32 posted on 07/17/2005 12:59:57 PM PDT by JasonC
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To: JasonC
You leave out the Deobandi, who began in India as an Islamic anti-colonial, anti-Western force during the British Raj. Since the founding of Pakistan they have grown in strength and influence. From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darul_Uloom_Deoband

Darul Uloom Deoband

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The Darul Uloom, an Islamic madrassa or seminary, located at Deoband, a town in Uttar Pradesh, India is self-described as a cornerstone of "Islamic sciences." It was founded in 1866. It teaches an Islamist version of the religion. Its students have gone on to found many other maddrassas across modern India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and farther afield. As its official website proclaims, 'the whole of Asia is redolent with the aroma of this prophetic garden.' Its only rival in influence has been the Jam'a-e Azhar, Cairo. The school of the Islamic religion promulgated here is often described as Deobandi, and has had great influence on the Taliban of Afghanistan. Deobandi thought has much in common with the Wahhabi movement that originated in Saudi Arabia.

Founded at a time when the handful of Islamic Madaris in India were dormant, the school awakened political consciousness. Many of the school's Ulema had taken active roles in the "Indian Mutiny" or "War of Independence of 1857". The founder, Hazrat Nanautavi, turned lack of official support into a virtue, establishing the principle that the religious schools be run with public contributions from "the poor masses alone."

A center of both the Shariah and the semi-secret Tariqa from the very day of its inception, Darul Uloom has been a force explicitly counter to rationalism and secularism, which are associated with Western culture. The syllabus set at the outset "has been in force generally for more or less a century in all the Arabic schools in the country" according to the official website. The current syllabus consists of four stages, three that take eight years to complete, and Mastery Post-graduate stage, in Tafsir, Islamic theology, Fiqh or Islamic law, and literature.

33 posted on 07/17/2005 1:16:00 PM PDT by Lessismore
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To: Lessismore
Shariah just means Islamic law, there is nothing distinctive in it. As for "the semi-secret Tariqa", Tariqa just means "way" and is usually a preface to the name of some school of Sufism, the way of so-and-so or the way of whos-its. Sufist mysticism is certainly more prevalent in Islam in India, because it makes it easier to accomodate pre-existing metaphysical ideas and rival traditions. Most of the fundamentalists of the Wahhabi variety violently reject "syncretic" additions to Koranic, literalist Islam. Sufist groups tend to be all over the map politically speaking, some obscurantist and radical, others accomodating modern ways much more readily than literalism can.

While I don't doubt a center for the study of Islamic sciences in the traditional manner, would be an ideological force distinct from and counter to modernism, rationalism, westernization, secularism, etc, that in itself hardly amounts to Islamic fundamentalism. It is just Islam, which obviously isn't secularist etc. It may be the dominant tendency at that university or among its students is one that "politicizes" Islam, along the lines of Ibn Tayymia. I wouldn't be surprised. But there have also been modernizing and moderate developments in Islam coming from the subcontinent, notably the philosopher Muhammad Iqbal in the first half of the 20th century, and the scholar Fazlur Rahman (first cultural minister of independent Pakistan, he tried to reform education there without much success) in the second half.

34 posted on 07/17/2005 2:20:29 PM PDT by JasonC
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To: Tampa Caver

The Moslems in the Phillipines or Tailand wouldn't be either Arab or Persian. Same with American Muslim, who some ME Moslems wouldn't consider to be Moslem at all.


35 posted on 07/17/2005 2:25:14 PM PDT by RightWhale (Substance is essentially the relationship of accidents to itself)
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To: JasonC
The Deobandi are a fundamentalist offshoot of Sunni Islam. From http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/intro/islam-deobandi.htm

...

"The fundamentalist Deoband Dar-ul-Uloom brand of Islam inspired the Taliban movement and had widespread appeal for Muslim fundamentalists. Most of the Taliban leadership attended Deobandi-influenced seminaries in Pakistan. The Taliban was propped up initially by the civil government of Benazir Bhutto, then in coalition with the Deobandi Jama'at-ulema Islam (JUI) led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman [who by 2003 was the elected opposition leader at the Center in Islamabad and whose protégé is now the chief Minister in the NWFP]. Traditionally, Sunni Islam of the Hanafi school of jurisprudence was the dominant religion of Afganistan. The Taliban also adhered to the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam, making it the dominant religion in the country for most of 2001. For the last 200 years, Sunnis often have looked to the example of the Deoband madrassah (religious school) near Delhi, India. Most of the Taliban leadership attended Deobandi-influenced seminaries in Pakistan. The Deoband school has long sought to purify Islam by discarding supposedly un-Islamic accretions to the faith and reemphasizing the models established in the Koran and the customary practices of the Prophet Mohammed. Additionally, Deobandi scholars often have opposed what they perceive as Western influences. Much of the population adheres to Deobandi-influenced Hanafi Sunnism, but a sizable minority adheres to a more mystical version of Sunnism generally known as Sufism. Sufism centers on orders or brotherhoods that follow charismatic religious leaders. "

"Although the majority of the Islamic population (Sunni) in Afghanistan and Pakistan, belong to the Hanafi sect, the theologians who have pushed Pakistan towards Islamic Radicalism for decades, as well as the ones who were the founders of the Taliban, espoused Wahabi rhetoric and ideals. This sect took its inspiration from Saudi Hanbali theologians who immigrated there in the 18th century, to help their Indian Muslim brothers with Hanbali theological inspiration against the British colonialists. Propelled by oil-generated wealth, the Wahhabi worldview increasingly co-opted the Deobandi movement in South Asia."

36 posted on 07/17/2005 2:32:22 PM PDT by Lessismore
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To: Lessismore
So the background is Hanafi (traditionalist but not fundamentalist) but they have been coopted by Wahhabis - that is perfectly plausible.
37 posted on 07/17/2005 2:42:37 PM PDT by JasonC
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Comment #38 Removed by Moderator

To: Lessismore
Note that the Hanafi school simply as such is by no means fundamentalist. It is usually considered the most open minded and rationalist of the traditional Islamic schools of jurisprudence. Hanafi was willing to reject certain Hadiths (traditions from the time of Muhammad) because he distrusted some of the recorders. He considered a judge's own reason and sense of justice very important in legal decisions, was willing to adapt to times, disdained political power for judges, etc.

As for the Deobandi school, that seems to be where the politicalization is coming in, which is not there in Hanafi legalism as such. "The Deobandi interpretation holds that a Muslim's first loyalty is to his religion and only then to the country of which he is a citizen or a resident; secondly, that Muslims recognise only the religious frontiers of their Ummah and not the national frontiers; thirdly,that they have a sacred right and obligation to go to any country to wage jihad to protect the Muslims of that country." Those are Ibn Tayymia style doctrines, and would form a common ground with Wahhabis for example.

Hanafi sunnism is not as such fundamentalist or like the Taliban - one can be a hanafi sunni and not agree with the above propositions e.g. Sufism is even less like the Taliban.

39 posted on 07/17/2005 2:53:17 PM PDT by JasonC
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To: JasonC

This is excellent conversation. I and hopefully many others have a better understanding of the world political scene in regards to the various Muslim sects. I'm very surprised that the Shiites are not a larger percentage of Muslims in the world. Could this stem from them coming from Indo-European stock while the original Sunnis are predominately Arab or Semite? I now understand why the Pan Arab League has not accomplished anything and why the oil wealth of Saudi Arabia is footing the bill for many terrorist organizations. Thanks everyone and continue to comment if you wish.


40 posted on 07/17/2005 3:32:07 PM PDT by Tampa Caver
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To: Tampa Caver
So Wahhabism is the Sunni extreme element. Is there a equivalent group on the Shiite side? Any thoughts on if they have separate mosques like, say, in the US and England. My eventual line of thought is to know if they will one day coalesce into one large grouping for political purposes eventually.

Well the interesting thing about the Shiites is that up until 1979, they weren't involved in terrorism in any big way. But once they took over Iran (and took our guys hostage), it seems like Shiites all over the Middle East just erupted. To me it seems like Iran is the source of all Shiite extremism - before the Iranian Revolution, they were a pretty quiet bunch.

As far as differences between mosques, my sense is that it depends on the imaum or mullah in that particular mosque. I think it's a lot more individualized: there's not a "Radical Mosques Union" or "United Assembly of Radicalism" or anything like that, there are just individual imaums who are radicals.

Unfortunately, there seem to be rather a lot of them, as we saw in London 10 days ago.

- ThreeTracks

41 posted on 07/17/2005 4:29:01 PM PDT by ThreeTracks
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To: Tampa Caver
It isn't the stock, it is more deeply historical than that. The different dominant nations come in at different periods, as historical "waves". First the Arabs conquer the near east under Omar, the great captain of the piece. Muhammad took only weak and disorganized Arabia in his lifetime - he was the lawgiver. Omar was the great general, defeating both Byzantium and Sassanid Persia. The capital was Damascus, Syria, and the ruling class and army were Arab.

The Shia-Sunni split dates to that time. The Shia wanted a hereditary monarchy in the line of descendents of Muhammad. Their particular prince was named Ali. The word Shia means "sect"; they are the sectarians of Ali. Sunnis had an elective monarchy of sorts instead - elders choose a successor to the previous ruler (called "caliphs", which means "successors" to the prophet). In practice there were power struggles and assassinations, with the royal line resting in the hands of the most powerful families. The Shia revolt failed and Ali was killed. The monarchy remained in the hands of the Ummayid family in Damascus.

The Arab ruling class grew soft. They had already conquered Persia and they were fighting as far afield as northwest Africa and central Asia, but the rulers themselves preferred a pension-roll life in Damascus. Initially the entire body of Muslims had been Arab soldiers, now there were many civilians, merchants, and idle nobles among them. The army in central Asia in particular became dependent on hardier men recruited from the edge of the steppe. The single most important district was Khorasan, in what is now northeastern Iran. That is where good cavalry came from, and soon a third of the army were Persians and some of the leading generals were Persian.

Succession crises were endemic - they had never really solved the political problem of peaceful transfer from one ruler to the next. One caliph divided the empire among his sons. They went to war the moment he died, and the one he had given Khorasan easily won the resulting civil war. The capital moved to Baghdad, to be midway between Damascus, the Arab capital, and Khorasan, the power base of the Persian component of the army. The caliphs divided to rule, balancing Persians and Arabs. This was the golden age of Islam in political unity and in learning.

It did not last. To deal with rivalries between the two nations, caliphs resorted to slave soldiers from the steppe beyond Persia - that is how Turks first came in. Turks were the "Germans" of Islamic civilization - the warlike barbarians over the frontier, looked down upon but always gaining through prowess and discipline. It took a century or so after Turkish soldiers were used to prop up the caliphs and make them independent of the Arab and Persian nobilities, before the Turkish soldiers were selling the empire to the highest bidder, Praetorian Guard fashion. The generals, "Sultans", became more important than the "king", the caliph (rather like Shoguns and Emperors in Japan, or "Mayors of the Palace" or prime ministers and kings in Europe).

This led to changes in governors that were not viewed as legitimate in the rest of the empire. Some figurehead caliph is sitting in Baghdad, a kept man of a Turkish warlord. Why would a Muslim in Spain or Egypt take orders from him? If it were a matter of Islamic legitimacy, clearly the slave-general-warlord had none. If it were a matter of raw military or political power, the local leader in Spain or Egypt had more of it locally, than the distant Turkish general could bring to bear against him. So the empire broke apart. Political revolutions in the center did not bring the periphery along. They went their own ways.

In Egypt, a Shia dynasty took power around this time, with their own notions of Islamic legitimacy. It was useful to a ruler trying to break away from Baghdad to shift to a different sect and a different form of religious legitimacy than the line of caliphs. A tradition developed about a kind of messiah they called the hidden Imam (leader). Shias revere authorities and had formed as the sect of a monarchic idea. Strange things happen when you lack all worldly power but believe in monarchy. These new ones claimed a line of rulers descended from the time of Ali, each of which had been an infallible guide and exemplar, but unrecognized by the world. Now the twelfeth Imam, the last one they claimed, had been taken up to heaven until the end-times, when he would return as a messiah. No more worldly Imams until the end times, therefore. In the meantime, follow exemplars, ayatollahs, "bishops". So called "Twelver Shia" founded the Fatamid dynasty in Egypt, as a break away state.

Meanwhile at the far end of the med in Spain, a dynasty called the Almohads instituted a form of "literalism for the people", with the court patronizing philosophy and learning, but strict Koranic literalism being required of everyone else, as a matter of law. Some literalists hold them up as a model, but they lasted less than 200 years, losing power after suffering several defeats at the hands of the Christians in Spain.

Meanwhile the Crusades took the holy land from the Muslims. A Kurdish-born general in the Turkish empire, Saladin, led an army from Damascus to reunify much of the near east, and then used that base of power to expel the Christians. In the process he destroyed the Twelvers in Egypt, leaving a new line on the throne, now Sunni. He also left a Turkish guard, the Mamelukes, which soon became the rulers.

Then the Mongols came and smashed most of the near east to atoms. Turkish warlords picked up the pieces in the aftermath. The Mongols did not take Egypt - the Mamelukes were able to stop them. The Turks who took power after them were no longer the Seljuk line from the previous centuries, now it was the turn of the Ottomans. The Ottomans arrived running from the Mongols and were at first given shelter by the Seljuk Turks, in Anatolia (now eastern Turkey). After the Mongol wave receded, the newcomers proved stronger than their hosts (a recurrent pattern in Islamic, and for that matter ancient history generally - noticed by the Islamic historian Khaldun).

The Seljuk Turks had been at war with Byzantium forever, doing well around the 11th century and not so well later. The Ottomans completed the conquest and took Constantinople in 1453, and made it their capital (Istanbul). They also took much of the near east. Egypt acknowledged their caliphs but was in practice independent. Egypt later became a protectorate of the French and British during the construction of the Suez canal in the 19th century, and by the end of the century was effectively a British colony.

In the 16th century a Persian general, Ismail, successfully broke Persia away from the Turkish empire and made Shia his state religion. The ruling line changed several times in fighting with Afghan warlords, but stabilized in the 18th century with the dynasty that lasted until just after WW I. Then a coup brought the Pahlavi family to the throne, where they remained until they were ousted in the revolution in 1979 (though occupied in WW II, facing attempted coups in the 1950s, etc).

The basic story is there has been no real political unity in the Islamic world in a thousand years. There have been occasional attempts to put together larger empires, that have sometimes held large areas at least nominally under one ruler. But locals find new theological tendencies to follow, new warlords rise, old tribes lose their military virtues, and the whole thing churns, tossing this or that religious sect, this or that ruling line, and this or that nation to the top.

This churning is the real cause of Muslim decline, coupled with growing hostility to rationalism and science from the late middle ages on. But to members of each particular sect, it looks like all the others are too concerned with worldly politics to band together as Muslims, and each is certain the fundamental cause of disunity is failure of all the others to agree with their particular sectarian formula for unified Islam. Bin Laden and company claim to explain all this history as due to religious slackness, insufficient literalism and discipline, and insufficient orientation toward external war as the mission.

Unify against the external threat, follow whichever leader takes the fight to the external unbelievers, purge all accomodators and compromisers and worldly people out of positions of power within Islam, and all will be glorious right and true again. That is the sales pitch. They've been losing because they haven't been doing what God asked, which is (1) to do whatever the Koran literally says and nothing else, and (2) to wage war against the unbelievers, while (3) deposing anyone who shows any sign of slacking on either score. If everyone would just listen to them, they could have one giant war with the west with God on their side, instead of all the petty infighting.

Naturally, what they actually get is more petty infighting, but with nastier weapons, no morals, brutal anti-civilian tactics, POed outsiders coming and messing with them in a major way, etc. Hardly a glorious success...

42 posted on 07/17/2005 5:23:36 PM PDT by JasonC
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To: JasonC

Wow, great info in a nutshell. Do you know the history of how Islam spread to SE Asia? Also, there's now a call to return the Taj Mahal to the Muslims since I guess it was a holy shrine to them at one time. From news reports, it seems every Islamic town has holy shrines. Is this under local control only or are all Muslims required to treat them as holy? Would some of them consider that the Temple area of Jerusalem predates Mohammed's visit there and why would they wrest away the site that is holy for another religion? What I'm saying is, hasn't there been an unbroken history of them taking over other religion's holy sites in the name of Allah? Is that in the Koran's teaching?


43 posted on 07/17/2005 7:05:41 PM PDT by Tampa Caver
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To: Tampa Caver
I'll address shrines and such rather than SE Asia. Into India I know the history, but farther east than that I know less about.

On shrines, most of them are the tombs of Muslims saints, typically sufis. (Sufi means "mystic", incidentally). Revering local holy men was a sufi tradition, and a way they made "syncretic" compromising with pre-Islamic religious traditions. Somewhat similar to the cult of saints in Catholicism, at least in some cases.

Purist Muslims and literalists in particular have a rather dim view of the cult of saints. It was a grass roots thing at the periphery of Islam. Ibn Tayymia in particular was an opponent of it, considered it a form of idolatry and what they called "associationism" - associating other figures with God, which they regarded as a heresy of the Christians in particular. Tayymia was an opposition figure in his own day, and it was his hatred of the cult of saints that got him thrown in jail for heresy. He objected to the ritual in the regular pilgrimage to Mecca that had the pilgrims pay their respects at Muhammad's tomb.

The Wahhabis took from Tayymia a loathing for the cult of saints in any form. The only allowed place of worship is a mosque, which must be devoid of any representational art (as idolatry - that is why they are all periodic tiles, no pictures - the only other allowed "decoration" is calligraphy, verses from the Koran written out in Arabic). This is not all that popular with sufi Muslims, but these days they tend to get their way.

They dislike the idea of any form of worship going on anywhere in which anything or anyone is associated with the worship, or with God, or is represented. This is not restricted to their own, but extends to anybody else's worship, too. Idolatry should just be stamped out wherever it exists, that is the belief of the Tayymia style literalists. Take over any pagan temple, cleanse it of images, make it a mosque - sure that is something they did a lot of in places they ruled.

As for the temple mount it is certainly a special case, as is the kabba in Mecca. Mecca was a pagan religious center in Muhammad's day, with hundreds of idols worshipped there, including the stone. He threw the pagans out and made it a center of Muslim worship. Before going to Medina, he had prayed toward Jerusalem. While in Medina he came into violent conflict with the Jews there, and changed the direction of prayer, toward Mecca.

Muhammad thought of himself initially as continuing a revelation first made to the Jews. He thought the religion of Abraham was the true religion and that he was bringing it to the pagans of Arabia. That Judaism as distinct from the religion of Abraham was a later development of it, that (he thought) had become encrusted with particular human additions related to one people, instead of being a monotheism addressed to all, as he took Abraham's religion to be.

He expected praise from the Jews who he initially thought of as a particularly pious people compared to the pagan Arabs around him. When instead they considered him a heretic he took offense, developed a strong dislike for the Jews he met in Medina, and persecuted them ruthlessly. The official line is that the Jews were given a true revelation but messed it up, interpreting it too particularly as making them special, yada yada. As for Christianity, Islam treats Jesus as a saint but a man, distorted by his followers who commit polytheism by associating a lesser figure with God.

All of which means Jerusalem is of course still extremely important to Muslims. But since Islam's take on them is less than charitable, they think they should be in charge of all the holy sites, and that the others' use of them contains impiety etc. In the late 7th and early 8th centuries the Muslim structures there were built, and all sorts of stories about the supposed importance of the sites were laid down. The dome of the rock is supposed to be the location of Muhammad's "night journey". But it was clearly meant as a challenge to Christians, and contains inscriptions exhorting Christians to forswear the idea of God having a Son and to worship only one God instead. Obviously it is also on the site of the former Jewish temple, destroyed by the Romans centuries earlier. The location of the al-Aqsa mosque is supposed to be the site of Abraham's near sacrifice of Isaac, a reference clearly meant to underscore Islam's claim to be descended from the religion of Abraham, with little historical basis.

So there is an element here that is clearly just aggressive, your religion is wrong, ours is right, the right one should be followed everywhere, especially in the places you think are important to be in your face about it and continually draw attention to our belief that you are wrong, etc. The same motive is doubtless also at work in things like fights over shrine locations in India. But there, there are two other motives. One, there are some sufis who actually care about their particular shrines in a religious sense. Two, there are other fundamentalists who hate that any so-called Muslims care about shrines, and about the too-religious sense they do care about them, and would rather they didn't. To the point of wanting them pulled down, in some cases.

I hope this clarifies things a bit. Please understand I am giving information here about what they think, not endorsing a line of it. Particularly the literalists, there is no reasoning with them, their minds are completely shut off. That isn't so with the less irrationalist of the sufis, with the more moderate of the Shia, with modernizers (thin on the ground but not zero), and even with traditionalist opponents of Tayymia style bigotry. Ghazali isn't Tayymia, Fazlur Rahman is not Sayyid Qutb. People who read and think like the first in each pair you could reason with; the second two, forget it.

44 posted on 07/17/2005 7:51:24 PM PDT by JasonC
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Comment #45 Removed by Moderator

To: JasonC

Required reading. Thank you so much for your knowledge and insight. My hope is that the rest of the world, whether Christian or otherwise will wake up. Of course for me, it's all in God's plan.


46 posted on 07/17/2005 8:41:26 PM PDT by Tampa Caver
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To: JasonC

Required reading. Thank you so much for your knowledge and insight. My hope is that the rest of the world, whether Christian or otherwise will wake up. Of course for me, it's all in God's plan.


47 posted on 07/17/2005 8:41:41 PM PDT by Tampa Caver
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To: Tampa Caver

The London bombings present a most interesting look at the problem. Here were 4 men, raised in London by families that had no connection to the terrorists nor ever supported any of the Islamic terrorists of recent years. These 4 somehow came under the influence of a few Islamic radicals in Pakistan and London and were in a very short time convinced that suicide bombing was a reasonable choice. It is very similar to many of the cults which were popular in the 1980s in the US, Jim Jones being the more extreme version. What is most troubling is the lack of outrage among mainstream muslims over what is being done in the name of their religion. The worst they can bring themselves to say is that given the persecution of Muslims around the world, this sort of behavior is understandable. With that attitude we are in for a protracted battle.


48 posted on 07/18/2005 12:46:27 AM PDT by Casloy
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