Saturday, September 11, 2010

Navigating the Apocalypse 1.3

9/11 Update - The Specter of Jihad 2010

The current sociopolitical and religious climate in the world today seems to be escilating away from reason at an alarming rate. Religious intollerance continues to grow since 9/11. Religious extreamism amongst the “Desert Religions” also appears to be on the rise. As stated in this series many times before… desert religions seem to bring nothing but invasion, war and devistation to the lands they touch. Whether it be infidel western crusaders… occupying the Holy Land in medieval times… or the oil driven crusades of the 21st century... the “westernized” desert religion… Christianity… has historically been a consistent perpetrator.

As unwise as the current meddling in Middle-Eastern affairs is, Western interests have no clue as to the centuries old conflict that has smoldered beneath the surface of contemorary Middle-Eastern Islamic politics. The current “Specter of Jihad” may erupt… not between Chrisian vs Islamic world views… but between two main factions of Islam. Secifically, between two ancient ethnic/tribal peoples who are followers of the Prophet Mohammed, the Sunni and Shia Muslems.

Ancient Roots

The biter rivalry between Sunni and Shia can be traced back to the death of the founder of Islam, the Prophet Mohammed. Upon Mohammed’s death, Sunni factions advocated and followed Abu Bakr, Mohammed's friend and collaborator, while the Shia factions followed Ali ibn Abi Talib, and considered him to be the rightful successor to Mohammed. Sunnis regard Ali as the fourth and last of the "rightly guided caliphs" (successors to Mohammed as leader of the Muslims) following on from Abu Bakr 632-634, Umar 634-644 and Uthman 644-656. Shias feel that Ali should have been the first caliph and that the caliphate should pass down only to direct descendants of Mohammed.

Simply put, when Mohammad died… nobody could agree on who should succeed him. Sunni schools teach that Shiites aren't real Muslims. In Sunni controlled nations, Shias don't get a seat in government. They can't become judges or even testify in high courts. In Sunni-run Saudi Arabia, Shias and Sunni can't even marry. For centuries, the Shia have been the underclass. But now, for the first time in history, the tide may be turning. And how big a tide is it? Iran has the largest population — 70 million Shia.

Battle-lines drawn in the Sand

Here is how the 2010 Specter of Jihad seems to be lining up… On the one side, you've got the Shia Muslims. It's the Shia that rule Iran… and now have significant influence in Iraq, as well as Lebanon and Syria. The well known guerilla organization Hezbollah, which forced the Israelis out of southern Lebanon in 2000, is Shia. Worldwide, Shias constitute ten to fifteen percent of the overall Muslim population. In light of this, Iran’s alleged backing of Hezbollah is evidence of widening Shia influence in the Middle-East.

On the other side are the Sunni Muslims. They are the ruling elite in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and many of the other countries in the Middle-East. Saudi Arabia is the largest Sunni controlled country in the Middle East, with the central institution of Saudi Arabian government being the Saudi monarchy. For eight years back in the 1980s, Saudi Arabia helped Iraq wage a bloody war against Iran. Along with other Sunni governments, the Saudis even gave Saddam over $47 billion to launch missiles and nerve gas attacks over the Iranian border.

To further complicate the political landscape, consider a more recent player in the Middle-East quagmire, the anti-Israeli Hamas. Hamas is a militant, Islamist political party and social organization with its own military wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades. Hamas gained control of the Gaza strip in 1987 as the main political faction of the Palestinian Parliament. Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and Israel. Although Hamas is an almost exclusively Sunni organization, it is heavily funded by Iran, a Shiite theocracy.

Throw into this mix Pakistan and Afghanistan and the US involvement there… and you get the picture as to how incredibly complicated and unfathomable (from a western perspective) the politics of the Middle-East and the rise of Jihad actually is. Although president Obama announced the end of the US combat mission in Iraq at the end of August, there remain 50,000 US troops in harms way in that country, thereby keeping the US deeply entangled in the rising Jihad.

This precarious situation that has been growing at least since the invasion of Iraq (a response to 9/11) can be perceived as a trend toward a modern "clash of civilizations" between the Arab-Islam and the Western-Christian world. Yet, the level of discontent within factions of Islam complicate and destabilize the Middle East. It is absolutely wrong to consider the recent acts of terrorism as the action of a few radicals such as Osama Bin-Laden. The acts grow on a very fertile ground of Arab neo-conservative philosophies presenting themselves as modern versions of jihad.

Recent threats of burning the Quran by Christian neo-cons in Florida only exacerbate the larger “clash” of cultures. The threat here is the ever-increaseing point/counterpoint escalation of hostilities sparked by radicalized neo-con religious factions of all three desert religions, spreading to larger populations. It is the potential for this propoganda of hate “catching fire” in the mainstream segments of our otherwise more tolerant society that will feed the flames of a true clash of civilizations. In any case, it is clear that this return to contemporary religious conservatism is a threat within all of the desert religions. And let’s face it… the desert religions do not have a good track record for peacful solutions to world conflict.