Ultraconservative Islam - Salafis - on Rise in Arab Nations

[AP/USA Today] Paul Schemm - The ultraconservative Salafi Islamic movement has grown dramatically across the Middle East in recent years. Critics worry that the rise of Salafists in Egypt, as well as in other Arab countries such as Jordan and Lebanon, will crowd out the more liberal and tolerant version of Islam long practiced there. They also warn that the doctrine is only a few shades away from that of violent groups like al-Qaeda - that it effectively preaches "Yes to jihad, just not now." Saudi preachers on satellite TV and the Internet have been key to Salafism's spread. Salafism preaches strict segregation of the sexes and resists any innovation in religion or adoption of Western ways seen as immoral. In most of the region, Salafism has been a purely social movement calling for an ultraconservative lifestyle. Most Salafis shun politics. Its preachers often glorify martyrdom and jihad or holy war - but always with the caveat that Muslims should not launch jihad until their leaders call for it. Critics of Salafism say it has spread so quickly in part because the Egyptian and Saudi governments encouraged it as an apolitical, nonviolent alternative to hard-line jihadi groups.

2008-10-22 01:00:00

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