Thursday, February 22, 2007

This is the best article I have seen on the Sunni-Shi`ite conflict in the Middle East. Naturally, or naturlich as they say in German, it is from the best magazine there is, the Economist: "Some of the alarm appears to be orchestrated. In the culmination of a month-long barrage of innuendo against Iran in Egypt's state-owned press, a recent editorial in the staid Cairo daily, al-Ahram, charged the Islamic Republic with undermining chances for peace in Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon. The goal, it suggested, was to weaken Sunni Arab states so as to realise “Safavid dreams” of Shia expansion, a reference to the 16th-century dynasty that enshrined Shiism as Iran's state religion. Citing unnamed Egyptian officials, the same newspaper floated charges that Iranian intelligence agents were responsible for the kidnap and murder of Egypt's ambassador in Iraq in July 2005. A similar campaign has unfolded in Saudi Arabia, where increasingly internet chat sites, several of which are widely believed to be infiltrated by police agents, are rife with spurious tales of Shia perfidy. A typical item affirms that, when told of Sunni fears of a “Shia crescent” spreading across the region, Iran's president said he envisioned not a crescent but a full moon. While a columnist in one Saudi daily asserted, falsely, that Shias believe they must perform ablutions if they happen to touch an “unclean” Sunni, 38 senior Saudi clerics issued a call to arms in defence of Iraq against the “Crusader-Safavid-Rejectionist plot” that seeks to uproot Sunni Islam."