Tuesday, September 19, 2006

I'm no expert on Sufi Islam...

But I find this a little disconcerting.

The Jamestown Foundation (me emphasis at the end):
Of all the Islamic trends, Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam, is reputed to be the least prone to violence and more tolerant of other currents within Islam as well as other faiths. This is why the recent announcement by a group of Qadiri Sufis that they have formed the Battalions of Sheikh 'Abd al-Qadir al-Gilani to fight against coalition forces and the Shiite-led government of Iraq is surprising to many.

Although Sufism is a minority trend within Islam, it is not uncommon in Iraq. There are different branches of Sufi Islam in Iraq, with the Qadiriyah, of which this group is comprised, being the largest. The Qadiris follow the teachings of a famous Sufi mystic, 'Abd al-Qadir al-Gilani (1077-1166), who moved from his native Caspian village to Baghdad when he was 18. In 1127, he began to preach and his order steadily expanded in Iraq. Al-Gilani's teachings stayed close to orthodox interpretations of Islam but featured some mystical interpretations of the Quran. He attacked materialism and instead stressed charity and humanitarianism.

The Battalions of Sheikh 'Abd al-Qadir al-Gilani is led by Sheikh Muhammad al-Qadiri. The group had previously rejected violence against the coalition and in fact cooperated with U.S. forces upon their entry in Iraq in 2003. Yet on August 26, guerrillas holed up in the Abdul Qadir al-Gilani mosque in Ramadi attacked U.S. troops. They fired small arms, machine guns and rocket propelled grenades, according to U.S. coalition statements. Coalition troops returned fire and the mosque suffered serious structural damage as a result. It is unclear whether it was members of the Battalions of Sheikh 'Abd al-Qadir al-Gilani or other insurgents who were allowed sanctuary in the mosque who carried out the attacks.

Little is known about how many fighters belong to the group or exactly which other insurgent groups they cooperate with. It is believed that they are cooperating with indigenous Iraqi Salafi-Jihadi insurgents in the al-Anbar and Baghdad areas. The rising sectarian violence played a prominent role in the Sufi group's decision to take up arms and join the insurgency. Ahmed al-Soffi, a Sufi leader in Fallujah, told the media in August, "We will not wait for the Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigade to enter our houses and kill us. We will fight the Americans and the Shiites who are against us."
This is the great danger in Iraq. Violence has a tendancy to radicalize.


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