Saturday, March 15, 2008

Crazy Fatwas

Recently a discussion about the term "Wahhabi" took place in the comments section, and Anand suggested that "Takfiri" is the politically correct term, and that a "Wahhabi" is not necessarily a bad person who wants to kill me because I am Shi3i. This is true, and it is also true that Saudi Arabia has spent billions of dollars on mosques worldwide to promote their brand of Islam, and many mosques such as the King Fahad Mosque in LA may be Saudi-funded and Saudi influenced, but the Muslims who run these mosques, in most cases, do not teach Wahhabi doctrine. In 2002 I met one of the Sheikhs at the King Fahad Mosque, and he is a very nice man from Ghana.

In Saudi Arabia, however, it's a different story. The Shia in Saudi Arabia are not killed, thankfully, but they aren't well respected either. Saudi Shia clerics are not allowed to appear on Saudi TV, and Shia schoolchildren in KSA are told regularly that they are apostates. The latest outrageous and embarrassing example of takfiri thought comes from Saudi Arabia's most revered cleric Sheikh Abdul-Rahman al-Barrak, who issued a fatwa declaring that 'two writers should be tried for apostasy for their "heretical articles" and put to death if they do not repent.' I don't know if the writers are Shia, but apparently they have written that Muslims should be allowed to follow other religions:

He said the articles suggested Muslims were free to follow other religions. Rights groups have accused Wahhabism of a xenophobic attitude which demonises other religions.

Abdullah bin Bejad al-Otaibi, one of the two writers, said he feared for his life and called on the government to intervene. The second writer was Yousef Aba al-Khail.

"My articles have been met with fatwas before but it never got to this level of directly inciting murder or directly accusing someone of no longer being a Muslim," he told Reuters.

"If this is allowed to pass, this country will be transformed into an arena of bloodshed. It will be chaos."

Barrak is the same cleric who declared in December 2006 that Shia are infidels. This reminds us that the Wahhabi really is a takfiri, a person who has decided that worshipping God in any other way than his way is punishable by death. This kind of thinking originates in Saudi Arabia, and has been the root of the sectarian conflict in Iraq. The takfiri have been rejected for the most part in Iraq. I have been told by two Saudi Shia I met in the last year that King Abdallah has made some progress in giving Saudi Shia more rights since he took over. It will be interesting to see how the King reacts to Barrak's provocative crazy fatwa.

Note at 9:35 EST I changed the title from "Wahhabi = Takfiri = Intolerant Crazy?" to "Crazy Fatwas"

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