Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a fairly small, radical–apocalyptic, even–and highly militarized Islamic sect carves out a chunk of territory, including a sizable piece of Syria, in which to establish its own very wealthy political entity that could be described as revisionist, expansionist, and even irredentist. They specialize in hit-and-run attacks on their neighbors that maximize civilian casualties, attacks that would certainly meet most definitions of the term “terrorism.” Their targets are intended to shock ordinary people and to support their esoteric interpretation of Islam–to that end, they deliberately seek to damage and destroy physical symbols of cultural and religious significance. The people unfortunate enough to find themselves captured by or otherwise living under the rule of these fanatics often find themselves enslaved. Recognized by almost none of its neighbors and opposed by nearly all of them, the emirate ruled by these fanatics nevertheless survives far longer than it probably should, and the fanatics themselves deal out considerable pain and suffering to those neighbors along the way.
I’m talking, of course, about the Qarmatians (or Qarmathians if you prefer; in Arabic they’re the Qaramitah), the Ismaʿili Shiʿa movement that ruled a big chunk of the Arabian peninsula, centered in Bahrayn (which historically refers to eastern Arabia, not just the modern island nation of Bahrain), from the tail end of the 9th century through the middle of the 11th century. It’s a good thing we don’t have to deal with anything like that nowadays, am I right?
Read the rest at my new home, Foreign Exchanges!