Middle East update: April 21-22 2018

ISIS A new statement from ISIS’s official spokesman suggests that the group is shifting its focus away from the West and on to governments in the Middle East: The remarks were a departure from the last pronouncement issued by the spokesman, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, which aimed to incite attacks against Europe and North America. It… Continue reading Middle East update: April 21-22 2018

Asia/Australia/Africa update: June 28-29 2017

ASIA UZBEKISTAN One of Uzbekistan’s more charming features is the annual enslavement of much of its population to pick cotton, which remains one of the country’s most important products. The World Bank has implemented projects in Uzbekistan that are meant to diversify its agricultural sector away from cotton, but a new Human Rights Watch investigation… Continue reading Asia/Australia/Africa update: June 28-29 2017

Today in Middle Eastern history: the Wahhabi sack of Karbala (probably 1802)

Wahhabism has always taken a dim view of Shiʿism–really, denigrating the Shiʿa is at the core of the movement’s origins. Muhammad b. Abd al-Wahhab (d. 1792) based his teachings in large part on those of the very influential 13th-14th century Hanbali scholar Ibn Taymiyah, and apart maybe from philosophers Shiʿa were pretty much Ibn Taymiyah’s least favorite… Continue reading Today in Middle Eastern history: the Wahhabi sack of Karbala (probably 1802)

Arbaʿeen: bigger than ever

Arbaʿeen, for those who aren’t familiar, is the second Shiʿa holy day that is centered on the Battle of Karbala, and thus the death of the early Shiʿa leader Husayn b. Ali, in 680. The first, Ashura, is commemorated on the day (per the Islamic calendar) of the battle, while Arbaʿeen (Arabic for “forty”) occurs… Continue reading Arbaʿeen: bigger than ever

That time of year

The month of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic (Hijri) calendar, is one of four months that, in addition to Ramadan, are explicitly identified as sacred months in the Qurʾan. This is probably an extension of a pre-Islamic Arabian tradition wherein certain months were set aside to be free from violence. The tenth day… Continue reading That time of year

More sectarian fun

At LobeLog, Georgetown’s Shireen Hunter took a deeper dive into the Saudi Grand Mufti’s declaration that Iranians are not Muslim. Of course, there’s no deep theology behind the mufti’s pronouncement; it’s simple anti-Shiʿa bigotry: This belief is neither new nor limited to the Saudis or the Wahhabis. However, as far as I can recall, no… Continue reading More sectarian fun

Finding unity in terror

The death toll from Sunday’s car bombing in Baghdad just keeps climbing; Reuters says the Iraqi Health Ministry has now raised it to 292. 23 people are still hospitalized with injuries from the attack, but from what I can gather most of the increase in the number of dead has come from people who were… Continue reading Finding unity in terror