April 24, 2008

To the Middle East of Europe

“Once upon a time, in a faraway part of Europe, behind seven mountains and seven rivers, there was a beautiful country called Yugoslavia.” From They Would Never Hurt a Fly by Slavenka Drakulić.

I’m out of Iraq material, and it’s time to travel again. But I’m not going to Iraq this time. I haven’t worked in any other country for over a year, and the story in Iraq is fairly static right now.

This trip will be to the part of the world that got me interested in geopolitics and war in the first place – the Balkans. I took a long hard look at the violent destruction of Yugoslavia before I ever took a serious look at the Middle East, and I understood the Middle East instinctively thanks to my grasp of Bosnia, Serbia, and Kosovo. The Turkish (Ottoman) Empire ruled over all these lands for hundreds of years, and the tragic events that unfolded in the wake of its destruction are eerily similar.

The Balkan Peninsula is the Middle East of Europe. There’s a reason why the violent fracturing in countries like Lebanon and Iraq is sometimes referred to as Balkanization. It should surprise no one that genocidal race and religious wars were fought there so recently, and that American troops remain on the ground to this day, as they likely will for a long time in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The region once known as Yugoslavia is where the West has collided violently with the East for hundreds of years. Millions of South Slavs in Bosnia were converted to Islam at sword point by imperialist Muslims from Turkey. Most Mediterranean Albanians – descendents of the ancient Greeks and Illyrians – likewise converted to Islam. The flag of Albania and Kosovo to this day is a centuries-old symbol of the Albanian Catholic anti-Turkish resistance.

Kosovo Flag.jpg

Another civilizational fault line rips through the place – the one between Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Genocidal wars were waged by the Orthodox Serbs against Catholics in Kosovo and Croatia, as well as against Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo. Croatia looks toward Rome. Belgrade looks to Moscow. Bosniaks, in the middle, look to Arabia and Istanbul. Kosovars look toward Tirana, and to New York and Washington. They could not coexist. Yugoslavia was drawn and quartered.

“Only part of us is sane. Only part of us loves pleasure and the longer day of happiness, wants to live to our 90s and die in peace, in a house that we built, that shall shelter those who come after us. The other half of us is nearly mad. It prefers the disagreeable to the agreeable, loves pain and its darker night despair, and wants to die in a catastrophe that will set life back to its beginnings and leave nothing of our house save its blackened foundations.” – from Black Lamb and Gray Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia by Rebecca West.

Kosovo is the world’s newest country, and its unilateral declaration of independence is more controversial than the existence of Israel. It should be only slightly surprising, then, that many Kosovars, though most are Muslims, identify to an large extent with the Israelis. “Kosovars used to identify with the Palestinians because we Albanians are Muslims and Christians and we saw Serbia and Israel both as usurpers of land,” a prominent Kosovar recent told journalist Stephen Schwartz. “Then we looked at a map and woke up. Israelis have a population of six million, their backs to the sea, and 300 million Arab enemies. Albanians have a total population of eight million, our backs to the sea, and 200 million Slav enemies. So why should we identify with the Arabs?”

Kosovo is perhaps the most pro-American country in all of Europe. It is almost undoubtedly the most pro-American country in the world of Islam. It exists thanks to NATO, but mostly thanks to the United States. And the Kosovars know it. President Bill Clinton is lionized there as a liberator just as President George W. Bush is hailed by the Kurds of Iraq. They are both indigenous people long-oppressed by empires of the East and more recently by ethnic-nationalist states. Both were saved by young American men from places like Indiana, Colorado, and Texas. Kosovars, unlike the more conservative Muslims in Bosnia, support the war in Iraq.

“In the hinterland of Dalmatia, especially in the Knin area, one can hear a kind of moaning song, a primitive archaic intonation, consisting of the well-known doleful modulations of the sounds o-oy…A few peasants, usually in a tavern, put their heads together and let their sorrowful modulations sound for hours, which constitutes a very grotesque sight for a European. And if they are asked why they sing like this, they give the answer: the lament for Kosovo!” - Vladimir Dvornikovic

The residents of Yugoslavia’s final breakaway state are under the gun from Serbia and its patron state Russia, and also from well-heeled Wahhabis from Saudi Arabia who would love to turn it into a fanatical jihad state in Southeastern Europe. All this goes on under the noses of American soldiers, and utterly beyond the eyes of the incurious media.

Bosnia and Kosovo are where the pacifism of my college years died and was buried. I have wanted, no, needed, to visit these places and write about them for more than ten years. I am not doing this on a whim.

“The whole world is a vast Kosovo, an abominable blood-logged plain." From Black Lamb and Gray Falcon by Rebecca West.

Later this year I plan to visit Afghanistan – a country where the war is going badly from what I hear from people I trust. I have seen American troops under the command of General David Petraeus pull off the impossible in Iraq. No one like Petraeus is in charge in Afghanistan. NATO is in charge in Afghanistan, and NATO is a different animal than the United States Army and Marine Corps.

NATO is also in charge of Kosovo, and Kosovo isn’t the failure Afghanistan is – at least, I don’t think so. But there are those in Russia and Saudi Arabia who would like to reverse that. These are two of the same countries that played terrible roles in the destruction of Afghanistan. Soviet Russia paid dearly for that, but the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia never have. And they are at it again. The United States isn’t the only country that mucks around in the rest of the world, and it’s no coincidence that American forces have been drawn into both Kosovo and Afghanistan. Preventing the Islamic radicalization of Kosovars isn’t why NATO went in there, but it’s part of NATO’s job now, or at least it should be.

Someone needs to take a look at what’s happening in the world’s newest country and figure out where it’s going and what it all means. No one seems to want to go there but me. So I’m going, and I’m going in by ground through Bosnia from Serbia’s capital Belgrade. I leave in two days.

Post-script: I don’t get paid for these reports by anyone but readers of this Web site, and I can't afford to do this for free. If my dispatches are worth something to you, please consider a contribution and help make truly independent journalism economically viable.

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Posted by Michael J. Totten at April 24, 2008 2:28 AM
Comments

As usual, a great post.

This tidbit is hidden in the post, and it would behoove more people to think about it, especially on the left, and consider what it means:

"The United States isn’t the only country that mucks around in the rest of the world"

That sums up what has been missing from the US political debate rather precisely: the apparent ignorance, if not hubris, that the US is the only "real" player on the world scene.

That is so far from reality that it's not even funny.

Posted by: John F. Opie Author Profile Page at April 24, 2008 6:00 AM

Well, Mr. Totten, I became of supporter and fan of your site from the Iraq stories, but I look forward to continuing my patronage indefinitely, and I can't wait for news from Kosovo. I'll be reading it from Croatia, as a matter of fact.

Thanks in advance, fair winds and following seas and such, good luck!

Oh, and though NATO is still in charge of Afghanistan, at least Gen. Petraeus is about to be in charge of American forces there as the new head of Central Command.

Posted by: PDK Author Profile Page at April 24, 2008 7:26 AM

I look forward to reading what you come back with. I spent some time in the area in the late 1990s and would love to go back now that things are better.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at April 24, 2008 7:30 AM

The history of the area is so complex - we really need to know a lot more about the area, and the affect of the Balkans on Europe. European attitudes towards the place appear to be as complex as the Balkans' history.

I visited the former Yugoslavia back in 1983 to visit friends in what is now Croatia. In those days, the biggest political crisis was a fuel shortage. People were waiting in lines at the gas stations. Otherwise, there was no talk about ethnic divisions, nobody mentioned issues about Serbs or Croats. Our friends were talking about taking a summer trip to their dacha, visiting places around the country side. It was a lovely place, very European. We toured the city, admired the tiled roofs on the churches and made jokes about the American media's portrayal of communism in Yugoslavia.

A while later, our friends contacted us and said that they were coming to the states due to the 'situation' in Zagreb. When these ethnic conflicts get stirred up, it's amazing how quickly civilization can deteriorate.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at April 24, 2008 9:09 AM

It is interesting that you talk about the "more conservative Muslims in Bosnia". Bonsian Muslims were not always like this. For the longest time, like the Albanians and Kosovars, they were known for their hard drinking and obvious lack of Islamic piety.

I think figuring out HOW that changed will help keep the same thing from happening in Kosovo.

Good will for America is not a given and it can disappear as quick as it came.

Stephen Schwartz. You have to take anything this guy says with a grain of salt. He is a convert to Islam and puts himself forward as an advocate of "moderate Islam" but he has little or no support in the Muslim community here in the USA and abroad and tends to get heavily involved in Muslim sectarian infighting.

Politically he is wishy washy, first being a leftist and now an unabashed "neo-con".

Within the Muslim community his thoughts, ideas and articles are little read and have even less influence. This might be because of his rabid anti-Saudi stance, or it might be because of the fact that he was once a leftist and now seems to pander to media outlets seen as hostile to Muslims and Islam.

His views have a definate agenda and slant and should be viewed in such a fashion.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at April 24, 2008 12:48 PM

Michael,

Having served in the Balkans for many years as a UK diplomat, I wish you luck.

There are so many issues of mutually interlocking circle-within-circle fears and hatreds and suspicions echoing on down the decades that even the people who live there don't really understand them.

Take the Serb who lived in a mainly Bosniac/Muslim block of flats between the two front lines in Sarajevo during the conflict. Finally he snapped as the war dragged on, and and sneaked over to the Serb side. Then he got hold of a grenade launcher and blew up the balcony of his Muslim neighbour in that block whom he had known in a friendly way for years. Then he telephoned the Muslim family to apologise.

One Big Point.

In communist Yugoslavia the mainly Bosnian community who were not Orthodox/Serb or Catholic/Croat won the national/ethnic status of Muslims. But many of them were not religious muslims, religion being broadly suppressed by the Titoists. So all muslime were Muslims. But not all Muslims were muslims. Failure to grasp this simple(!) point led to massive media confusion once it all blew up which still continues. Who exactly ARE all these people down there?

My own new site for anyone interested has quite a few Balkan postings (Balkanic Eruptions) , including a look at the vital idea of 'Inat': without grasping this concept little of what non-Balkanites hears makes much sense. The Sakic-Milosevic Syndrome is also a force to be reckoned with.

Finally, behind all the epochal feuding and conflicts lie large networks of happily cooperating multi-ethnic gangsters who prey on and foment these political tensions - and quietly get on very easily with each other. They murdered Serbian PM Djindjic in 2003 as he prepared to move against the region's narco-mafia leaders. These villains help harbour war crimes suspects Karadzic and Mladic. So, when in doubt, follow the money...

Best regards,

Charles

Posted by: Charles Crawford Author Profile Page at April 24, 2008 12:51 PM

Marc,

Yes, Stephen Schwartz is highly opinionated. He's a neocon, a convert to Sufi Islam, and an advocate of moderate Islam and religious pluralism. So? I don't have any objection to any of that -- especially not to the latter. Why is he "politically wishy washy" because he moved rightward and is no longer a radical leftist? Radical leftism is dumb and outdated. I also abandoned that ideology, around 15 years after he did. People grow up and move on. Do you have the exact same political views you had when you were 20 years old? You're a conservative, right? Would you respect him more if he were still a radical leftist, or if he advocated Islamic supremacism instead of pluralism? Of course he's an enemy of Wahhabism. He's a Jewish Sufi. What do you expect? And what's wrong with or dubious about detesting Wahhabism?

Schwartz may not be popular among American Muslims, most likely due to his neoconservatism, but he is very well known and respected in Kosovo. He speaks the language, knows almost everybody, and is engaged to be married to an Albanian woman.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at April 24, 2008 2:00 PM

"No one like Petraeus is in charge in Afghanistan."

He will be shortly. He has been given command of Centcom.

Posted by: Big G In TX Author Profile Page at April 24, 2008 2:23 PM

Big G: He will be shortly. He has been given command of Centcom.

That's great news. Normally I wouldn't have to learn about that in my comments section, but I'm busy packing, etc., and out of the news loop right now.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at April 24, 2008 2:29 PM

Good luck Michael.

I strongly recommend you spend at least two weeks in Belgrade before or after Kosovo - not only is it a great city with fabulous people but your perspective on the Balkans seems a little narrow.

If I may offer a little more perspective - Croatia does not look to Rome - it looks to Austria and Germany, with good historical reason. Croatians and Italians are not great friends. If you go to the Dalmatian coast you can see the memorials commemorating Italian war crimes in 1940. People don't forget.

And Belgrade does not really look to Moscow. If anywhere, they might look to their only real friends until the mid 90s - the French. No one in Russia really gives a damn about Kosovo or Serbia, it's all posturing. That has changed since 1990 and Russia has certainly taken advantage of Serbia's mistakes, but most elite Serbs consider Russians to be boors. Also Orthodox Christianity is split along national lines - the Patriarch of the Russian Church does not run the Serbian Church (or the Greek Church) so the fraternal bonds are even weaker than they are among Catholics. So if you see any real evidence that the Russians are causing mischief in Kosovo I'll be surprised. For the most part the Russians also have other far more important interests (Georgia, Ukraine, Iran). And if you find Serbs to be resentful and self-pitying, yeah, they certianly do need to do a better job coming to terms with the crimes they committed when trying to preserve the integrity of their country. But try to be a little understanding - Serbs stood with the West in two World Wars and were the only Communist bloc country to break free from Moscow. But when they needed the West we stood by and let Croatian and Slovenian nationalists tear the country apart. And then we bombed them. Of course they are resentful.

I worked in Bosnia and no Bosnian I knew ever looked to the Arab world, at least not by choice. Turkey yes. Iran also. The Bosnians are not Arabs and they tend to be more sympathetic with non-Arab muslims. Actually, like Croatians, most Bosnians I knew tended to look to Germany, partially because Germany has always been the enemy of the Serbs and partially for the long-standing economic ties between Germany and what used to be Yugoslavia. If you bought a Volkswagen before 1990 there's a good chance a lot of that car was made in Bosnia (or by a Bosnian in Wolfsburg). Don't get too caught up in the "Clash of Civilizations" thesis - I think you'll find in Kosovo, most Kosovars look to the US or Germany as a model not Turkey or Saudi Arabia. Native European Muslims (as opposed to muslim immigrants to Europe) mostly see themselves as Europeans first, Muslims second, and they want the Euro life style.

The reason no one goes to Kosovo, by the way, is because it's kind a dull. Not much happens there - no economy to speak of, it's a tiny backwater of a backwater run by organized, but fairly polite, criminal gangs. Not a bad place, nowhere in the Balkans is bad - the people are friendly and interested in the US, so that's good. But you'll probably wonder why the hell the Serbs wanted to waste all those lives and resources holding onto it in the first place, and you'll understand why the Albanians want nothing to do with it. Have fun.

Posted by: Dyadya Vanya Author Profile Page at April 24, 2008 3:24 PM

Michael, how about Carla del Ponte's accusations that top Kossovo Albanian leaders, like Thaci, had Serbs kidnapped to sell their body parts? As you probably know, del Ponte, the former top prosecutor of the Hague Tribunal on war crimes in ex-Yugoslavia, sets out these charges in her recent book, in Italian, La Caccia [The Hunt, Me and the War Criminals]. Do goons like these deserve a state??

Posted by: Eliyahu Author Profile Page at April 25, 2008 6:12 AM

Uncle Vanya, try to remember that the Italians accuse the Yugoslav partisans [particularly Croats and Slovenes] of massacring Italians at the end of WW2. These were Italians who lived in Fiume [now called Rijeka in Croat] and surrounding areas.

Posted by: Eliyahu Author Profile Page at April 25, 2008 6:18 AM

Eliyahu,

Not only do I remember that, I personally consider it one of the bigger, and almost unknown, tragedies of WWII. The Dalmatian Coast had been inhabited by Italians since the days of the Roman Republic. Marco Polo is said to have born in Korcula, a small island near Dubrovnik. The Croatians destroyed the last vestiges of that millenia old culture. I didn't mention it because if you were to going list all the ethnic crimes in the Balkans over just the last 100 years the post would be 10 pages long. But thanks, that further strengthens my point that Croatians do not really look to Rome. But maybe now that we have a German pope more so than in the past...

Posted by: Dyadya Vanya Author Profile Page at April 25, 2008 7:05 AM

Michael,

My political views are not that different from when I was 20 years old, no. As to Schwartz, it is nice that he has seen the light, but the question then begs, what is the next light he will see? Radical leftism is dumb and outdated and I would suggest that "neo-conism" is dumb and outdated as well. Maybe it is time for Stephen to have another experience on his road to Damascus?

As to myself, I don't hold to any label. I find some positive in almost all spheres, along with a lot of nonsense liberally scattered around as well. I think anyone who holds tightly to any one label is someone who is not going to have an awful lot of flexibility in ideas and thought.

I would have some respect for Schwartz if he didn't get so tangled up into sectarian politics. I just am not a fan of those who seem to go out of their way to engage in sectarian partisanship. I hated it in Ireland, hated it in Lebanon, and hate in when it rages in other circles as well.

"Enemy of Wahhabism"? I don't even know where to begin with that! I am not even sure of what a "Wahhabi" is? Certainly no one you or Schwartz describe as a "Wahhabi" would use that term for themselves.

The one branch of Salafi Sunni Islam that some call "Wahhabi" is more holding to Ibn Taymiyyah than Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab, so the term itself is inaccurate and has become more of a pejorative curse word rather than an accurate descriptor. But I guess the newly minted "experts on the Middle East and Islam" would have a hard time calling people something like "ibn Taymiyyaheen" or something similar. These "experts" have a hard enough time with "Kaif al hal", we wouldn't want to bother them with anything harder in Arabic.

The problem with "detesting Wahhabism" is that a lot of people get painted with the "Wahhabi" label who do not deserve it and have nothing to do with the teachings of Wahhab or more correctly, Ibn Taymiyyah. I find most who use this term do so because they do not have a deep grounding in Islamic history, theology, and certainly not in the works of the scholars. Once again, the term "Wahhabi" is a pejorative term and essentially tells us little or not about the person to whom the label is being applied. Often it is a slander used by some, like Schwartz, to further their own little petty sectarian bias.

Do I have an issue with that section of the Muslim community that would call themselves Salafiyah, who follow the teachings of Ibn Taymiyyah? You bet. I just refuse to drink the kool-aid that is sold by those who think they know something about Islam, Muslims and the Middle East who want us to believe what they have to say when it is not grounded on solid fact or history. This is mostly what you see in the main stream media today and those who would pass themselves off as experts but wouldn't have known Abd-al-Wahhab from Michael Jackson 15 years ago.

This is EXACTLY why rational discourse on this whole subject is almost impossible today. The entire subject has been so "dumbed down" as to be almost useless.

I am glad that Stephen Schwartz is engaged to an Albanian woman, but that does not to elevate him or his position in my eyes. Merely being engaged, or even married to someone, does not in itself impart any special knowledge. I am married to a Sephardic Jewish lady whose family lived in Baghdad for 500 years before they were expelled, but I certainly wouldnt think that gives me any insight into Iraq or Baghdad.

I have watched the guy for years and seen him do little that is actually productive and he seems to spend most of his time pandering to those figures in the lost cause of what is otherwise known as the "neo-con" world. He has been a Muslim for something around ten years, again, that doesn't impart any sort of special knowledge on an individual. I am sitting here thinking that Mike Tyson has been a Muslim longer than Schwartz, let's hit him up for some insider knowledge!

Look, the man is so incompetent that he was fired from VoA. He might have a point about his firing being political in nature if it wasn't so obvious that his writing is, indeed, incompetent. Take a look at his own website (Center for Islamic Pluralism) and you see it seems to be less about "pluralism" and all about "Schwartzism".

Schwartz is mediocre figure completely engulfed in his new found sectarian battles, end of story.

I guess that is my screed for the day! }:>)

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at April 25, 2008 7:42 AM

Eliyahu: Michael, how about Carla del Ponte's accusations that top Kossovo Albanian leaders, like Thaci, had Serbs kidnapped to sell their body parts?

I have my doubts that that is true, but Thaci is known by Kosovars to have done some nasty things during the war. Kosovars aren't angels. No one in the Balkans is.

Do goons like these deserve a state??

Do Serbs deserve a state after what Milosevic did?

(The question is rhetorical. The answer is yes.)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at April 25, 2008 7:59 AM

Marc: I just am not a fan of those who seem to go out of their way to engage in sectarian partisanship.

Huge numbers of Muslims are enemies of Wahhabism (oops), and there is just no way I'm going to beat up on them for it. Most Americans (if not most American Muslims) appreciate those within the community who take a principled state against these fanatics and wonder why we aren't seeing more of it. We're going to have to agree to disagree about this.

Think whatever you want about Schwartz. Obviously you have made up your mind.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at April 25, 2008 8:08 AM

Vanya: that further strengthens my point that Croatians do not really look to Rome.

I meant that Croatians are Catholics and that Rome is the "capital" of Catholicism, not that Croatia (hearts) Mussolini, etc.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at April 25, 2008 8:12 AM

"As to myself, I don't hold to any label. I find some positive in almost all spheres, along with a lot of nonsense liberally scattered around as well. I think anyone who holds tightly to any one label is someone who is not going to have an awful lot of flexibility in ideas and thought."

A couple quick thoughts here: If you have trouble maintaining "flexbility in ideas and thought" by following a particular ideology, it does not necessarily mean others suffer from the same problem.
And it seems you just got done criticizing Shwartz for not staying adhered to one ideology, and then you say someone should not try to adhere to one ideology in particular. I understand there are some nuances built in there, but stepping back and looking at it as a whole, it looks like you by-and-large just spoke two contradictory ideas. It seems you dislike Shwartz period, and his change of heart with regards to ideology has little to do with it.

Posted by: Joe Author Profile Page at April 25, 2008 8:17 AM

I meant that Croatians are Catholics and that Rome is the “capital” of Catholicism, not that Croatia (hearts) Mussolini, etc.

I get that, my point is that putting too much emphasis on the Croatians' Catholicism will lead you down the Robert Kaplan rabbit-hole. There are lots of Catholics in Europe (Germans, French, Portuguese, Lithuanians, etc.), the defining thing about Croatian and Slovene culture (as opposed to ethnic identity) is not the religion per se, it's the historically close ties they had with Austria - the Czechs were loyal subjects of Vienna when Serbia was fighting for independence from both the Turks and the Austrians. Like the Czechs, the Croatians feel more at home with Western Europeans than they do with other Slavs. You can make the case that Croatians aren't really "Balkan" peoples at all (I've heard many Croatians make that case). Serbs, Bosnians and Kosovars are definitely all Balkan peoples.

Posted by: Dyadya Vanya Author Profile Page at April 25, 2008 10:40 AM

I can't wait to see the reports. I'm headed back there myself this summer...

Posted by: popcontest Author Profile Page at April 26, 2008 8:26 AM

Superb posting and comments exchange. This site is a flippin' treasure! You go, Michael!

Posted by: Brian H Author Profile Page at April 26, 2008 10:32 AM

That's so great that you're going! I'm kind of disappointed that I won't be able to read future articles from Iraq (they have been amazing!), but Kosovo/Albania is also an important and largely overlooked/misunderstood region.

If by any chance you are planning to spend any time in Albania proper and need any assistance with accommodations, just let me know. All my family is still there and would be honored to help you, though you most likely have everything figured out already.

Best of luck with your trip and I can't wait to read your new pieces!

Best,

Kejda

Posted by: medaura Author Profile Page at April 26, 2008 8:23 PM

Huge numbers of Muslims are enemies of Wahhabism (oops), and there is just no way I'm going to beat up on them for it. Most Americans (if not most American Muslims) appreciate those within the community who take a principled state against these fanatics and wonder why we aren't seeing more of it.

I've noticed that too - the majority of Muslims understand the danger of Wahhabi influence, and our alliance with Wahhabis alienates a large part of the Muslim world. Muslims are the 'experts' in the Muslim world, and if they say Wahhabism is a malign influence, we (as in our government and our state department) ought to listen to them.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at April 27, 2008 8:15 AM

The problem with “detesting Wahhabism” is that a lot of people get painted with the “Wahhabi” label who do not deserve it and have nothing to do with the teachings of Wahhab or more correctly, Ibn Taymiyyah.

It seems that Muslims us the term Wahhabi in a way that's similar to the way Westerners use the term "Nazi", or fascist. They use it (and maybe overuse it) to describe a person who shows signs of being

1. politically authoritarian
2. brutal, cruel
3. racist, biased
4. grossly, almost pathologically intolerant of certain people based on who those people are, not on what they do
5. part of a group that seeks to form a government based on inequality, aggression and hate

While your average BNP party member, or KuKluxKlan member does not follow the teachings of Hitler to the letter (and while some may even denounce Hitler), if they show all of the qualities listed above, they tend to be labeled by Westerners as 'fascists'.

Since the qualities listed above do not produce good governments, good leaders or a happy society, it's a wonderful thing that the majority of Muslims and Westerners oppose 'fascists' and Wahhabis (whether the Wahhabis are actual Wahhabis or not).

Since the qualities listed above are held by our close allies in Saudi Arabia, and since our close allies are spreading their 'Wahhabi' values worldwide, the majority of Muslims would be right to question the sanity and morality of this alliance. The majority of Westerners should question it too. Steven Schwartz is one of the few who do.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at April 27, 2008 8:19 AM

"His views have a definate agenda and slant and should be viewed in such a fashion."

Unlike Marc's, of course.

Posted by: Gary Rosen Author Profile Page at April 28, 2008 12:24 AM

Gary,

I am not pushing any agenda other than "what Marc thinks". If you dont like it, dont believe it. That's fine.

Michael,

I have no problem with Muslims hating "Wahhabis" but it might suprise you to know that many Muslims that maybe you and others would used the term "Wahhabi" to decribe, actually hate "the Wahhabis" too.

It has come to a point where anyone who puts forward a fundamentalist view of Islam is automatically label "Wahhabi". Would be call all Ultra Orthodox Jews "Kachities"? Supporters of the radical Jewish hate group? Kahane LaKnesset/כהנא לכנסת‎ was as much of a hate group as the "Wahhabis" are but there seems to be a double standard in the labeling of peoples and groups.

"Fundamentalist" means nothing more than someone who believes in the fundamentals of something. Hence a Muslim fundamentalist is not a person who certainly supports terror or violence, rather they are just a Muslim who believes in the basic of their religion.

With the misuse of these labels, based on ignorance, we are throwing the baby out with the bath water. It does nothing more than perpetuate more ignorance.

The Salafiyah of Islam are a large group, of which the "Wahhabis" are just a very small group. Surprise, surprise, but most Salafiyah tend to get bundled into the same group as the "Wahhabis" and AQ, even though they most certainly are not. Many, if not most, would certainly condemn the actions and tactics taking by AQ and the "Wahhabi".

That was my point.

Mary,

Many of those Muslims who you say "understand the danger of the Wahhabi influence" are very often themselves labeled as "Wahhabis". Hence we are excluding a whole lot of would be allies because of a collective ignorance on the part of the Western media and governments.

It is the blind leading the blind, and it only seems to be getting worse.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at April 28, 2008 9:01 AM

Many of those Muslims who you say “understand the danger of the Wahhabi influence” are very often themselves labeled as “Wahhabis”.

Which specific group(s) of Muslims are you talking about?

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at April 28, 2008 10:43 AM

Mary,

Many Muslims are called "Wahhabis" when in fact they are not. The term "Wahhabi" itself would only apply to a small portion of even the Salafiyah.

So many, including some here it would seem, would label all Salafiyah as "Wahhabi" although it couldnt be farther from the truth.

For most Westerners, including many who think they know something about Islam, a beard, short pants/thiab and observance makes one a "Wahhabi".

If I have to explain the term "Salafiyah" to you and who that applies to then it would require far more time to catch you up on Islam and it's history than I have time.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at May 1, 2008 7:42 AM

i donated 100$
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Winner, The 2008 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

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