It seems the Western media remains confused about who ISIS are. They are still being labeled a ‘Sunni’ outfit, but it is certain they are Salafi/Deobandi jihadists fighting against both Shias and Sunnis.
Both Shia and mainstream Sunnis (known as Ahle Sunnah Wa Jammah) are being killed, while ISIS propaganda is helping to conceal the group’s intent to destroy shrines revered by both branches of Islam.
This wanton destruction reveals a side to Salafi doctrine that should concern the Western as well as the Muslim world.
The historical shrines of Islam, churches and synagogues remain under threat by Saudi-funded petro-dollars. Najaf and Karbala are not only Shia shrines but also belong to the mainstream Sunnis who believe in Imam Ali the fourth successor and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad. The Salafi/Deobandis deliberately and maliciously want to demolish these and other shrines in Iraq such as Imam al-Askari, which was attacked by Salafi jihadists in 2006.
Imam al-Askari and Imam Hussain are not just Shia icons – they are equally revered by the mainstream Sunni Sufis. It is only the Salafis and Deobandis/Tablighi Jammat, represented by the ISIS aka ISIL aka Al-Qaeda, who have said that they want to destroy the shrines of Najaf and Karbala. In a recent conference in India, Cleric Meraj Rabbani, the radical preacher of hate, called for the demolition of Prophet Muhammad’s grave in Medina as he says it is a major innovation shirk to have it in a mosque which has a green Ottoman dome built over it dating back centuries.
The Salafis believe that it is permissible to rape Muslim and Christian women which will lead them to heaven as stated in the fatwa (Islamic edict) issued last year by a Saudi Salafi cleric Muhammed al-Arifi. According to new reports, leaflets in the captured cities of Mosul and Tikrit claim the women virgins must join jihad – or Holy War – and cleanse themselves by sleeping with Salafi/Deobandi jihadists. A new wave of anxiety swept Iraq following the prominent Iraqi cleric, Harith al-Dari, issuing a new fatwa calling on all married women and under-aged girls to submit themselves to the Mujahedeen. The fatwa states all Iraqi and Arab women must sexually entertain the Mujahedeen. It is claimed that the Salafi/Deobandi jihadists have warned that those who refused to abide by the fatwa were violating Allah’s will, and would be beaten and killed.
What the Western media has not covered is the claim of the ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Salafial-Baghdadi that they want to destroy the shrine of the famous Sufi Saint Abdul Qadir Al Gilani before marching on to Najaf and Karbala. This is the Saudi agenda, and it is being concealed from mainstream Sunnis.
In Saudi Arabia almost all the shrines – Islamic and otherwise – have been demolished, and the next stop is the destruction of holy shrines in the rest of the Islamic world. This has been happening in Pakistan in the shape of Deobandi attacks on Data Darbar, as previously reported by Lapido, and Abdullah Shah Ghazi. This is, after all, what the Salafi/Deobandi ideology aims to do. It is crucial for mainstream Sunnis not to be deceived by the Salafi/Deobandi propaganda that ISIS wants to destroy only Shia shrines.
Salafi/Deobandi terrorists are against the very idea on which mainstream Sunni Islam is founded: veneration of personalities considered close to God. It is time for Shias and mainstream Sunnis to unite against Islamo-fascism symbolised and practiced by the Salafi/Deobandis.
Given the stakes, Iraq may be the last opportunity for Shias and mainstream Sunnis to counter the Salafi/Deobandi assault. If Iraq falls, the march of Saudi-financed Islamo-fascism will be too formidable to stop in any part of the world.
Dr Irfan Al Alawi is international director at the Centre for Islamic Pluralism