Lines of the Game: The mass suicide of Sunnis and Shia

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Volunteers loyal to Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, take positions during a military advance in areas under the control of Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), in the town of Samarra, in the province of Tikrit, on July 12, 2014.

By: Sami Kleib

Published Saturday, July 19, 2014

An Arab researcher can find dozens of studies, documents, and books on Israeli or Western plans to partition the Arab world. An Arab researcher can also consult history books to find clear examples on how successful those schemes were, with the most notable instance perhaps being Sykes-Picot and most recently, Sudan. One such book is Carnages: Les guerres secrètes des grandes puissances en Afrique by the very credible French author Pierre Péan, who sheds light on the workings of the Zionist lobby in the United States and Western countries ahead of the partition of Sudan.

But the problem is that many Arabs do not read, as confirmed by The Cultural Development Report published by the Arab Thought Foundation. The report says that the average time Arab citizens spend reading each year is six minutes. Yes, six minutes, compared to 200 hours for European individuals. Furthermore, Arabs mostly read material related to horoscopes, cooking, sex, or superficial apocryphal Islamic content concerned with interpreting dreams and so forth. Profound, serious, and enlightening Islamic reading is almost absent. And in recent years, Sunni and Shia books accusing each sect of blasphemy and misguidance are becoming wide-spread.

The second problem is that the Arabs who do read mostly read books that reinforce their convictions and proscribe others’. It is sufficient to take a quick look at social media (Facebook and Twitter especially), to discover that most Islamic material quoted by this or that side serves to find ways to excommunicate, undermine, or eliminate opponents.

The third problem is that illiteracy figures among Arabs are disastrous. If this is added to the poor economic, medical, and social conditions and corruption, the combination is the equivalent of a red-carpet welcome for sectarian sedition, terrorism, and mutual exclusion.

Last year, the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO) confirmed in a report than up to 100 million Arabs are illiterate. In other words, almost a third of the population of the Arab world cannot read or write. Interestingly, the highest percentage of illiteracy according to the report is in Egypt, affecting 17 million people, followed by Sudan, Algeria, Morocco, and Yemen. Illiteracy is particularly high among females for reasons that we all know, which feeds into higher birth rates.

As a result of all this, awareness suffers, unrest grows, and uprisings become haphazard. If one reads sociologist Emanuel Todd’s analysis of the Arab uprisings and other revolutions in the world, one will infer that successful revolutions take place where the birth rate is two or less per family. Todd’s explanation is that educated women have fewer children, and when women are sufficiently educated, they often seek to reform society.

The fourth problem is poverty. According to the World Bank office in Sana'a, for example, poverty affects about 55 percent of Yemenis. In Egypt, the head of the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics, Major General Abu Bakr al-Jundi, says that poverty affects more than 26 percent of the population. International statistics put these figures at much higher levels still.

In short, when we combine ignorance with illiteracy and poverty, we get restless societies that can be agitated in different directions. Indeed, their disenchantment has to have an outlet, and today, the natural outlet seems to be the complete intolerance toward others, so it is no wonder that sectarian strife is advancing.

This is a fertile environment for anyone wishing to sow sedition, including rival regional and international actors that have certain schemes and that have the wherewithal to push them forward.

The paradox here is that the Arab world is rich in natural resources. Oil is abundant in the Gulf, Algeria, and other nations. The Mediterranean basin is expected to be rich in hydrocarbons as well. The land is fertile and livestock is also abundant (before its partition, Sudan had 84 million hectares of arable land, of which it only exploited 19 ​​million hectares, in addition to 24 million hectares of pastures, 64 million hectares of forest, and more than 128 million heads of cattle, which would be enough to feed the entire Arab world).

In theory, the world needs to increase its food production by about 70 percent in the next three decades. Industries from China to Europe are always in need for oil resources like the ones present in the Arab world. Yet the world’s economic conditions require keeping the Arab world in a state of conflict, chaos, and apprehension to import more of the weapons the world makes. (One may read many international reports that confirm this, including the reliable reports published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)). Also recall that the Gulf nations are the world’s top importers of arms relative to their populations, with some deals exceeding $300 billion in value between 2011 and 2014.

Israel’s existence alone is no longer enough to cause conflict. Many Arab countries are no longer willing to fight Israel, or have signed peace treaties with it, or established ties with Israel away from the limelight. Therefore, other causes of conflict had to be invented. Today, there is no bigger story than Shia-Sunni strife. This is a long-term investment that can last for decades, and it cannot be resolved. It also prevents the Arabs from uniting, encircles Iran, and diverts attention away from Israel.

Shia and Sunnis can adduce hundreds of reasons and pretexts to justify battling each other. Some claim it is a fight with terrorism. Others say it is to prevent the expansion of Iran, the Persians, and the Safavids. A third segment claims that the battle is between a resistance project and a surrender project, and that strife was reinforced after the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Hezbollah’s victory against Israel. A fourth segment says the battle is to prevent foreign hegemony. A fifth segment still argues it is to prevent partitioning.

All these arguments are debatable. What is certain is that all sides are mired in the mud of sectarian strife. What is certain is that the nation of Mohammad is in a state of infighting, which is not likely to stop anytime soon because many of the belligerents believe that their mission is divine, rather than political or military in nature.

But in divine warfare, each side would be defending its god, and each side would be seeking to fight until martyrdom, believing the reward would be eternity in paradise. In this warfare as well, each side takes joy in seeing the dead of the other side, walking between the corpses, and taking pictures of them that are then posted on social media sites – the same sites that were invented by the West while Muslims invent ways to kill other Muslims.

For all this the causes are many but the result is one: mass Islamic suicide of which no one will emerge unharmed, and suicide that paves the way for re-molding the Arab world by those who wrote and we did not read and in the manner they desire.

There is an established saying by the Prophet that states: If two Muslims meet with their swords, then the murderer and the victim shall both be in hell. Ultimately, there will be no solution for us except with serious rapprochement between Sunnis and Shia, no matter the costs and the pressures. This mass suicide must be stopped at all levels, political, religious, military, and social. Clerics must play the most prominent role, especially since the Arab left and its remnants had handed over the arena a long time ago to religious leaders or their followers. What remains of that left today does not do much more than writing to criticize, as though it is has had no responsibility whatsoever for the current situation of the Arab world, many parts of which were once under the left’s control.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


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