Escalating Anti-Shi'ite Rhetoric from Sunni Clerics

(Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center) The Sunni-Shi'ite schism is emerging as one of the most influential factors shaping the Middle East. A major force driving the schism is the escalating anti-Shi'ite rhetoric from Sunni clerics who belong to different schools of thought. Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, considered by many the current spiritual leader of the Sunni world, said that Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi clerics were right to consider Shi'ites as infidels, and adopted their terminology when talking about the Shi'a ("Hizbullah is the Party of Satan"). The meaning of this escalation is that, ideologically speaking, the fight against the Shi'a (and its representatives, Iran and Hizbullah) takes precedence over the fight against the West and Israel. The fatwa issued by the Wahhabi Saudi cleric Abdullah ibn Jibreen in the first week of the Second Lebanon war cannot be separated from Saudi Arabia's stance towards Hizbullah and the deep-rooted historical animosity between the Wahhabis and the Shi'ites. In his fatwa, Ibn Jibreen called on the Sunnis to denounce the Shi'ites, saying that helping "that infidel [min al-rafidhin] party [Hizbullah]" was forbidden. It appears that al-Qaradawi's recent misgivings about the idea of rapprochement and his admission that Sheik Jibreen had the right idea have closed the door - at least for the next several years - on a dialogue that was far from being representative of the Sunni "hard core" to begin with. The fervent anti-Shi'ite polemics in recent years have been primarily fueled by fear of losing Sunni hegemony. The polemics are concerned with three issues: theology (recriminations in which each side accuses the other of distorting the Quran), religious law (for instance, the Shi'ite legalization of mut'ah, temporary pleasure marriage), and history (for instance, portraying the Shi'a as a manifestation of paganism and of Persian animosity towards Arabs).

2013-06-26 00:00:00

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