The not-so-strange resilience of Takfarism

The not-so-strange resilience of Takfarism March 2, 2014

Check out the article by Sheikh Habib Ali Al Jifri, “Why is there no serious effort to counter takfir ideology?”

I’m glad to see this article being run in a prominent Emirati newspaper, as the Gulf is at the heart of this problem. One hopes that’s a sign of some sympathy for real reform, as opposed to shrewd geopolitical optics.

Unlike in the case of most thorny social or political problems, I think this question can be answered very simply, for it stares us in the face: The reason Takfirism lives on is that the Wahhabi/Salafi worldview that sustains (or at least makes it theologically comprehensible and, thus, easier to accept) has yet to be actively and widely debated in the Muslim world. For all the talk of reform, we’re still all tiptoeing around the role of Wahhabism and Petrodollars in theologically dumbing down several generations of Muslims around the world and making them much more susceptical to extremism in various forms. When you view the world through the Manichiestic, inheretnly intolerant lens of Wahhabism and its various offshoots, Takfirism makes sense. In that context, any moderation is necessarily tactical as opposed to principled since the underlying worldview leaves no room for compromise. And no amount of political pressure will change that  instinctive posture towards the world (including other Muslims).

My assessment is unsparing and might even see a bit dogmatic and partisan, I know, but I think the evidence is long since been in. I’d love to spare my Khaleeji brethren’s feelings, but you don’t diagnose a serious, highly contagious disease with gentle euphemisms and diplomatic half-truths. You have to have a hard-nosed, painful conversation about the disorder’s etiology and the treatments most likely to succeed.

Hence my bluntness. Life is too short,  and, as counter-intuitive as it might sound to many Western Muslim intellectuals, Wahhabism is spreading once again.Bad thinking thrives in theology no less than politics during times of violence and instability–which are sadly commonplace in the Middle East at the moment, and only more seems to be on the horizon–as it provides a sterile but comfortingly black & white framework for understanding one’s place in an uncertain world and getting right with God. Hence the surreal and incredibly distressing our situation today of Wahhabism being on the march in Africa and elsewhere only a decade after 9/11. So this “old” topic is anything but irrelevant in my view.

As I’ve said before, the Muslim world (and even Saudis) will be much better off when those accursed wells finally run dry and the Khaleej returns to fishing and animal husbandry.Both are just a matter of time, I think. The question is how much more harm they will cause us all in the meantime, as they make their cosmetic reforms (to much fanfare) to this monstrous counterfeit orthodoxy that they pumped into the Ummah’s bloodstream for decades. And, meanwhile, many leaders rest of the Muslim world politely change the subject, either out of a disastrously misplaced sense of decorum or adab, or simply fear of loosing a place at the petrodollar feeding trough.

There ought to be a reparations movement against Saudi Arabia and its fellow travelers. Or at the very least a Truth Commission, a reconciliation process a la South Africa that forces leaders on all sides to discuss what happened and how people were affected by this phenomenon.. How many more theological Bhopal‘s must happen before the Muslim “Union Carbide” will be held accountable for its endless, industrial-scale toxic dumping?

Update: Made some stylistic edits and expanded some points.


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