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October 21, 2007
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October 21, 2007

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Home > 2007 Issues > October 21, 2007


Genesis of riots
Wahabis stoke tension, Shias work peace

By M.D. Nalapat

A close examination of the statistics on Hindu-Muslim clashes will show that nearly 99 per cent took place between Sunnis and Hindus, with Shia-Hindu clashes occurring in less than one in every hundred instances. In reality, more than Sunnis, the problem on the Muslim side has been the Wahabbis.

In numerous Sunni-Hindu clashes, it is a small Wahabbi element that magnified tensions and led the violence. Thus, while Wahabbis have emerged as a major threat to Hindu-Muslim amity, the Shias have remained peaceful. Indeed, except for Israel, there is no country in the world (that does not have a Muslim majority) where Shia terrorism has struck.

All the attacks against the US and the EU have been by Sunni elements, almost all of whom are not actually Muslims but Wahabbi, a religion created by Abdul Wahab three centuries ago under alien inspiration. Although the qadi of Mecca pronounced them to be the unbelievers (quoting the hadith that whosoever without good reason denounces another as an unbeliever is himself of that category), the Wahabbis were given open support by the British, and they grew into a swarm of locusts, destroying all in their path.

From the start, the British supported the Wahabbis, finally installing a descendant of Abdul Wahab, Ibn Saud, as King of the so-named Saudi Arabia. And thus the control of the holiest sites in Islam came under the ruthless control of a creed that over the years, has sought to take over the Muslim faith for its own purposes.

Only in the recent past has there been a reaction to Wahabbism, with Muslims worldwide turning against the effort to fanaticise and subvert their great faith. Within the Muslim fold, Shia Islam, and others such as the Ibadhis of Oman, have refused to succumb to the money and muscle power of the Wahabbis, a group that from the start has enjoyed the patronage of first, the UK and now also the US, mainly to ensure privileged access to the regional stock of oil. It was, therefore, a historical blunder when then Israeli Defence Minister Ariel Sharon used his army, to try, to ensure victory for the Maronite Christians of Lebanon against the Shia, propping up a family of known tough guys named the Gemayels. Several thousand Shias were massacred in the civil war that ensued, the result of which was to turn the Shias into an anti-Israel force that was as ready to use violence as the Wahabbis.

Given the conflict between Israel and the PLO in 1982, there was a case for the Israeli armed forces entering Lebanon to remove Palestinian forces that were being sheltered there, and which undoubtedly posed a threat to the stability and survival of the State of Israel. However, it was folly to attempt to bolster the position of the Maronite Christians vis-a-vis their Shiite opponents. In particular, their leaders the Gemayel family were known for the use of methods that could have been developed in a concentration camp, and which were subsequently used by the Milosevics and others against their opponents. After 1982, the flow of covert and other support to the Gemayels from Israel grew to a level that infuriated both the Shiites as well as the family?s many Maronite critics. By 1987, the PLO was able to secure the backing of key elements in the Shia community in Lebanon, despite being overwhelmingly Sunni. From that time, Israel has enjoyed the distinction of being the only non-Muslim country that is the target of militant Shiites, a group that is, person to person, far more virulent and effective (albeit as yet limited in strength and scope) than even extreme Wahabbi gangs such as those described as being within ?Al Qaeda?. Over the past two decades, much of Israel?s attention and resources has been concentrated on tackling a foe that went into action as a result of the policy of intervention pursued by Israel in Lebanon. Today, George W. Bush is in the process of repeating in Iraq on a substantially larger scale, the mistake made by Ariel Sharon and others in Lebanon in 1982.

Judging by the tone and content of the numerous remarks directed against ?Prime Minister? Nuri Al-Maliki and his men, several US law-makers and generals believe him to be a genuine leader rather than a hapless puppet. However, this may not last for long. Al-Maliki comes from a political tradition that has protected its autonomy even against Saddam Hussein, much less some clueless US generals, whose men have shown a disregard for Iraqi life that has destroyed local goodwill for US forces in the country. This has been born less of prejudice than panic, driven by an overwhelming focus on minimizing casualties, even at the cost of Iraqi blood. Such tactics will lead only to alienation and defeat.

A low-intensity conflict mandates the use of tactics that result in a significant loss of military life, as has been willingly undergone by the Indian army in Kashmir, a state where the same Islamic militants that drove out the Soviet forces have been cornered and emasculated by the battering inflicted on them?at a heavy cost in soldiers lives?by the Indian military. In contrast, what is self-defeating is the use of tactics that stress force protection over the destruction not simply of the immediate enemy but the mindset within the larger population pool that fuels the insurgency, a necessary condition for victory. Every engagement waged by US forces in Iraq creates several times more active enemies than get killed, a cycle that will end in a US pullout within the next 15 months.

What is being witnessed now is a repeat of the 1982 disaster, this time on a much larger scale, and with the US rather than Israel as the principal target. Civil conflict in the Islamic world is a messy. Taking sides in them is injurious to health, a warning that President Bush would do well to heed. Hopefully, the Sonia-Manmohan duo will not take India too into the fold of countries seen as anti-Shia, in their eagerness to please their masters in Washington. The Shia need to be treated with respect, not subjected to discrimination the way they are being in countries across the world, including in Pakistan.

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