Intimate Enemies

(Washington Post) Michael S. Doran - Many Sunnis, especially religious extremists, hate Shiites more than they hate Israel. To the radicals of al-Qaeda and the Saudi religious establishment, Shiites are the intimate enemy. They dwell among the Sunnis and outwardly make a show of friendship and brotherhood. Inwardly, they will stop at nothing to destroy their sectarian rivals. The current international crisis, many Saudis believe, is providing the Shiites with an opportunity to do just that. Even before Hussein's regime fell, the story of Ibn Alqami was circulating in Saudi religious circles. A Shiite minister to the last Abbasid caliph, Alqami betrayed his ruler by conspiring with Hulagu, the Mongol leader who in 1258 sacked Baghdad and destroyed the Abbasid Empire, the flower of Islamic civilization. Over the past year, Sunni religious conservatives have habitually referred to George Bush as Hulagu II. The moment that U.S.-led forces turned their guns toward Iraq, Sunnis began to ask in reference to the Iraqi Shiites, "Will the grandchildren of Ibn Alqami follow in their grandfather's footsteps?" The writer is an assistant professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University and an adjunct senior fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations.

2004-02-19 00:00:00

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