Thursday, June 14, 2007

Persian Ghosts

by Chris Toensing from The Nation

In the Arab world, many see the malign hand of Iran as well as an illegal US occupation. The Iraqi government is widely viewed as a puppet of the United States or Iran or both. Anti-Shiite sentiments have spread through virulent, Salafi-run TV channels operating in Iraq, as well as through the Iraqi refugees' tales of targeting by death squads. The most popular satellite channel, Al Jazeera, has been banned from Iraq since 2004 because of its alleged sympathies for Sunni rebels, and hundreds of Shiites recently demonstrated in Najaf against its portrayal of Ayatollah Sistani. Among Iraqi Shiites, meanwhile, the old questions of identity and relation to the state are far from settled by the Shiite revival. Notions of Arabism and Iraqi nationalism exert a powerful pull alongside Islamism and sectarian pride.

The scramble for Africa's oil

by Christopher Thompson from the New Statesman

Professor Peter Pham, a US adviser on Africa to the Pentagon told the New Statesman, America's new Africa strategy reflects its key priorities in the Middle East: oil and counter-terrorism. US military sources estimate that up to a quarter of all foreign fighters in Iraq are from Africa, mostly from Algeria and Morocco. Moreover, there is increasing alarm within the US defence establishment at the creeping "radicalisation" of Africa's Muslims, helped along by the export of hardline, Wahhabi-style clerics from the Arabian peninsula. "The terrorist challenge [has] increased in Africa in the past year - it's gotten a new lease on life," according to Pham. But it is the west's increasing dependency on African oil that gives particular urgency to these new directions in the fight against terrorism. Africa's enormous, and largely untapped, reserves are already more important to the west than most Americans recognise.

Dispute in Iran over Renewing Relations with Egypt

by Y. Mansharof from MEMRI

An excerpt from the Iranian newspaper Sobh-e Sadeq: "Ahmadinejad's proposal to establish diplomatic relations between Cairo and Tehran is, in effect, a clever policy aimed at preventing the emergence of a [Sunni] Arab front against Iran - a front that America wants to create... [The aspirations] of senior officials in Washington notwithstanding, Egypt - unlike Saudi Arabia - does not have the potential to lead this kind of [Sunni] Arab front, [which includes the entire] Arab world, against Iran. Saudi Arabia, however, is more willing [than Egypt] to fulfill this new role, owing to the prominence of the Wahhabi sect in that country, and in light of its history of ideological and financial support of the Taliban and of semi-religious terrorist groups in Pakistan and Iraq."

Prominent Islamic researcher warns against Wahhabism replacing traditional Islam throughout Russia

from Interfax

Ideas of Islamist extremism and intolerance towards other faiths are spreading today in many Russian regions, Islamic researcher Roman Silantyev maintains. 'There is a process of substituting Islam 'modernized' in the spirit Wahhabism for traditional Islam underway in Russia today. People often follow the Wahhabi ideology in the belief that what they confess is traditional Islam', Silantyev said in an interview with the Nashe Vremya weekly. In the researcher's estimation, if before there were large Wahhabi enclaves in Dagestan, Chechnya and Karachayevo-Cherkessia, now 'there is an apparent spread of the Wahhabi infection from Chechnya to the whole of North Caucasus and even to the Russian population in the Stavropol region'.

Dealing With Africa

by Jeremiah Puder from The Bulletin

Islam is growing rapidly in Africa, and it is not the supposed "religion of peace" version that is experiencing the greatest growth. Saudi Arabia, among others, is pouring significant resources into Africa and, in the process, encouraging and spreading the ultra-fundamentalist Wahhabi version of Islam. Muslim Sharia law has been widely introduced into the Muslim areas of Nigeria. Islam in Nigeria has recently gained widespread media attention concerning its Sharia court's imposition of punishments such as amputation and death by stoning for infractions such as adultery. Nigeria, with its oil reserves, is perhaps the most strategically important sub-Saharan African country to the U.S., and the danger of further Muslim domination is probable.