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Anti-Sunnism is hatred of, prejudice against, discrimination against, persecution of, and violence against Sunni Muslims.
Alternatively it has also been described as "Sunniphobia", which is the "Fear or hatred of Sunnism and Sunnites".
The term "Wahhabi" has frequently been used to demonize lay Salafi Muslims.
Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab was a Sunni Muslim reformer of 18th century Arabia. The religious clergy of the Ottoman Empire considered him and his supporters to be heretics and apostates. They were labelled by the term "Wahhabi". During the 19th century, the British colonial government in India placed anti-colonial Sunni scholars on trial in what became known as the "Great Wahhabi Trials" to suppress an imagined "Wahhabi conspiracy".
To be a Wahhabi is officially a crime in Russia. In Russian aligned Central Asian dictatorships, the term "Wahhabi" is used to refer to any unsanctioned religious activity. As a result, any Sunni Muslim, whether modernist, Conservative, political or apolitical is a potential target.
In response to 9/11 World Trade Centre Bombings, the United States and its allies launched a controversial policy of an unprecedented counter-terrorism effort on an international scale dubbed as the War on Terror. It was characterised by the infamous words "You are either with us or against us".
Both this approach, as well as the purpose of a War on Terror has been questioned. It has also been accused of inciting various forms of Islamophobia on a global scale.
The "War on Terror" rhetoric has been adopted by other authoritarian regimes. Israel, Russia, China, etc. has frequently invoked the "Wahhabi" label to target Sunni Muslims. Russia has employed its own "War on Terror" in the Second Chechen War, insurgency in North Caucasus and currently in the Russian war in Syria.
In a sectarian twist, War on Terror rhetoric has also been weaponised by Islamic Republic of Iran which follows the Khomeinist interpretation of islam, even closely cooperating with US frequently. Iranian officials commonly invoke the "Wahhabi" label to further its sectarian identity politics in the region. Even prior to the War on Terror, Iranian leaders like Ayatollah Khomeini and Rafsanjani had invoked the Wahhabi label describing Sunnis as "heretics" to stir up Sunniphobia and Iran's policy of exporting its Islamic Revolution. After the War on Terror, its perceived that an imagined Wahhabi conspiracy replaced America as Iran's Great Satan. This was further revealed by the statements of Qassem Soleimani, the former chief of IRGC who labelled "Wahhabism" with Jewish roots. Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary General of Hezbollah labelled "Wahhabism" as "more evil than Israel". In even more provocative tone, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif penned a controversial article in The New York Times titled "Let Us Rid the World of Wahhabism" wherein he described Wahhabism as a "theological perversion", "a death cult" that has "wrought havoc" and labelled virtually every terrorist group as "Wahhabi".
Main article: Safavid conversion of Iran to Shia Islam
In response to the growth of the Sunni Islam, the Safavid dynasty killed many Sunnis, attempted to convert them to Shi'ism, many of the burials of the Sunni saints were burned by the Safavid Shahs, the Sunni states were also occupied. They also cursed the first three caliphs of Sunni Muslims.
Ismail I made new laws for Iran and the lands he controlled:
Main article: Sunni Islam in Iraq
The Iraqi government installed after the 2003 invasion of Iraq is allegedly responsible for systematic discrimination of Sunni Muslims in bureaucracy, politics, military, police, as well as allegedly massacring Sunni Muslim prisoners in a sectarian manner. Many Sunnis were killed following the 2006 al-Askari mosque bombing during the Iraqi Civil War.
Main article: Barwana massacre
The massacre was allegedly committed by Shia militants, as a revenge for ISIS atrocities, in the Sunni village of Barwana, allegedly killing 70 boys and men.
Main article: Hay al Jihad massacre
On 9 July 2006, in the Hay al-Jihad area of Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, an estimated 40 Sunni civilians were killed in revenge attacks allegedly carried out by Shia militias from the Mahdi Army.
Main article: Musab bin Umair mosque massacre
On 22 August 2014, Shia militants allegedly killed at least 73 people in an attack on the Sunni Mus`ab ibn `Umair mosque in the Imam Wais village of Iraq, the attack occurred during the Friday prayers, where many of the Sunnis were attending their prayers. and at the time of the attack, there were about 150 worshippers at the mosque. The militants were later found to be not guilty.
Main article: 1973 Hanafi Muslim massacre
The Hanafi Muslim massacre of 1973 took place on the afternoon of 18 January 1973, when two adults and a child were shot dead. Four other children between the ages of nine and ten drowned. Two others were seriously injured. The murders took place at a home whose street address was 7700 16th Street NW, Washington, D.C., which a group of Hanafi Muslims bought and named the "Hanafi American Muslim Rifle and Pistol Club".
"Shaykh Muhammad Ibn Sulaymân al-Madanî ash-Shâfi‘î, as quoted in the book ‘Ashadd ul-Jihâd’, declared his belief a heresy and formally excommunicated him by issuing a fatwâ, the text of which said: “ This man is leading the ignoramuses of the present age to a heretical path. He is attempting to extinguish Allah's light, but Allah will not permit His light to be extinguished.”
ABSTRACT In the late 1860s and early 1870s the British colonial government in India suppressed an imagined Wahhabi conspiracy, which it portrayed as a profound threat to imperial security.
In Russia and Central Asia, public figures and the media see Wahhabism as the inspiration for religious revival and Islamic political movements. During the Soviet era, official apprehensions emerged about an ‘Islamic threat’ posed by Sufi orders as nests of secret conspiracies against the communist system. In the post-Soviet era, Sufism has assumed a positive connotation as a moderate form of Islam opposed to Wahhabism, which has become a sort of bogeyman in public discourse. Pejorative use of the term cropped up in the late Soviet era, when members of the official religious establishment castigated proponents of expunging ritual of non-scriptural elements for ‘importing’ Wahhabism, thus implying that it is alien to the region’s heritage. Many Russians believe that after the Afghan war, Wahhabis infiltrated Central Asia to spread their version of Islam. Thus, in 1998, political leaders of Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan declared their readiness to confront ‘a threat of aggressive fundamentalism, aggressive extremism and above all Wahhabism. This is what we have currently in Afghanistan and in troubled Tajikistan.’ The government of Uzbekistan tags unsanctioned religious activity with the Wahhabi label. The problem with this outlook is that it conflates differences among a variety of Muslim religious movements, which include militant and reformist political tendencies alongside utterly apolitical ones. Thus, a leading Tajik modernist who favours a blend of democracy and Islam has been branded a Wahhabi even though he has ties to Sufi circles
When, in September 2001, the right-wing Republican president of the US proclaimed the ‘war on terrorism’, which he also dubbed a ‘crusade’, George W. Bush was soon joined in such battle by his staunch British ally Tony Blair, a Labour prime minister. A populist prime minister of the conservative coalition in Australia, John Howard faithfully entered the fray on behalf of this nation, which likewise imagines itself to have a special relationship with the USA. All these allies participated in the unlawful invasion of Afghanistan the following month, in the name of this war on terrorism, and of Iraq eighteen months later. The forces of all three countries are still in Afghanistan, with very little difference to this fact having been made by the now Democratic presidency in the US, the now Tory-led coalition in the UK, or the now Labor government in Australia. Really, existing labour parties - when in government, that is - have taken a very similar stance in relation to securing militarily the US-led global empire to that of their conservative opponents. All have participated similarly in state crime in the ‘war on terror’; indeed all have been comparably complicit in what I call ‘empire crime’
Beyond genuine national security threats, countries across the world capitalized on the conflation of Islam with terrorism to serve discrete national interests. This American War on Terror furnished nations with license, and more importantly, a policing template and language to profile and persecute their Muslim minority populations. American Islamophobia, buoyed by swift state action including the War in Afghanistan and the USA PATRIOT Act, manifested in a surge of vigilante violence against Muslims and “Muslim-looking” groups and had global impact
Many of the regimes and movements labeled as Wahhabi in the contemporary era do not necessarily share the same theological and legal orientations. The reality is that Wahhabism has become such a blanket term for any Islamic movement that has an apparent tendency toward misogyny, militantism, extremism, or strict and literal interpretation of the Quran and hadith that the designation of a regime or movement as Wahhabi or Wahhabi-like tells us little about its actual nature. Furthermore, these contemporary interpretations of Wahhabism do not nec- essarily reflect the writings or teachings of Ibn Abd al-Wahhab
In political, as well as religious matters, any Muslim who challenges the status quo is at risk of being labeled a Wahhabi. This is how the KGB and its post-Soviet successors have used the term. In fact, the KGB may have played a large role in promoting its use
Pejorative use of the term cropped up in the late Soviet era, when members of the official religious establishment castigated proponents of expunging ritual of non-scriptural elements for ‘importing’ Wahhabism, thus implying that it is alien to the region’s heritage.Many Russians believe that after the Afghan war, Wahhabis infiltrated Central Asia to spread their version of Islam. Thus, in 1998, political leaders of Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan declared their readiness to confront ‘a threat of aggressive fundamentalism, aggressive extremism and above all Wahhabism. This is what we have currently in Afghanistan and in troubled Tajikistan. The government of Uzbekistan tags unsanctioned religious activity with the Wahhabi label. The problem with this outlook is that it conflates differences among a variety of Muslim religious movements, which include militant and reformist political tendencies alongside utterly apolitical ones. Thus, a leading Tajik modernist who favours a blend of democracy and Islam has been branded a Wahhabi even though he has ties to Sufi circles.
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In one of their meetings, the member of the Iranian delegation had a message for the American government: “Iran was prepared to work unconditionally with the United States in the “war on terror” and if they could work with [the Americans] on this issue, it had the potential to fundamentally transform U.S.-Iranian relations.” Commenting on this, reporter John Richardson said that such a statement had “seismic diplomatic implications" ... " In Tehran, the Iranians opted for rapprochement as they wanted to ensure that the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan could succeed, and they had their own reasons. Infact, the American decision to destroy the infrastructure of al-Qaeda and topple the Taliban served major political,economic and strategic goals for Tehran" .. "To eliminate the Taliban regime would also mean to put an end to the support the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) received from Iran’s enemies and neighbors: Afghanistan and Sadam’s Iraq. Last but not least, Iran wanted to play an active role in the “war on terror;” reduce tension and improve relations with Western countries including the United States and assure Tehran’s full integration in the international community." Pg.15 "The “war on terror” created a rare opportunity for Iran and U.S. to come together. Hilary Mann,who had just joined the National Security Council staff as its resident Iran expert and Ryan Crocker, a senior State Department official, sit with Iranian officials who expressed their will to cooperate with the Americans and re-establish diplomatic relations." Pg.16 "I an interview with Barbara Slavin in 2005, former Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps’ chief commander, Mohsen Rezaie, stated that the Islamic Republic played an “important role” in capturing Kabul as members of IRGC “fought alongside and advised the Afghan rebels who helped U.S. forces topple Afghanistan’s Taliban regime” in the months after the September 11 terrorist attacks.Such a stance is further emphasized by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who discussed the war on Afghanistan on CBS in November 11, 2001, two days before the fall of Kabul and asserted that “there [were] some Iranian liaison people, as well as some American liaison people working with the same Afghan forces.”Besides, Slavin confirms the Iranian role and argues that members of the IRG Qods Brigade were on the field when the Alliance, with U.S. air support, took control of Kabul."... "The American-Iranian cooperation did not end after the successful overthrow of the Taliban regime. The rapprochement between the two arch-foes was further illustrated in their collaboration to create an interim post-Taliban government in Afghanistan. Whereas, Iran’s role in the “war on terror” was largely secret, its role in forming a “broad-based, multiethnic, politically balanced, freely chosen” government was rather direct as the American and Iranian diplomats met and collaborated via the Six plus Two group.
However, by equating takfirism and Wahhabism, Iran further muddies the water of identity politics. It is a way of confusing the sectarian dynamic in Iraq and Syria, by asserting that the other side is not actually Sunni, but rather an extreme ideological movement (takfirism) that is beyond the pale of Islam and, therefore, not even Islamic. Like the case of the Saudi grand mufti, such rhetoric allows Iranian officials to indulge in their own game of takfir—articulating who is and who is not a Muslim and justifying actions accordingly. To neutral observers of Wahhabism, such accusations might touch on truth, but as a foreign policy tool, they only beget further acrimony from Iran’s Sunni neighbors.
Khomeini declared that the Saudi rulers, “these vile and ungodly Wahhabis, are like daggers which have always pierced the heart of the Muslims from the back,” and announced that Mecca was in the hands of “a band of heretics.”32 Once more, the Saudis were transformed into what the speaker of the parliament, Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, called “Wahhabi hooligans.” Rafsanjani recalled the nineteenth-century Wahhabi massacres (of Shi‘ites) in Najaf and Karbala, the Wahhabi destruction of Islamic monuments in Medina (venerated by Shi‘ites), and the Wahhabi burning of libraries (containing Shi‘ite works). The Wahhabis “will commit any kind of crime. I ask you to pay more attention to the history of that evil clique so that you can see what kind of creatures they have been in the course of their history.”33 This represented a deliberate attempt to fuel a present crisis with the memory of past sectarian hatreds."
Iranian statements pandered to the belief still held by Shi‘ites that the fanatic Saudis were driven by their own misguided beliefs to kill innocent Shi‘ite pilgrims. Khomeini declared that the Saudi rulers, “these vile and ungodly Wahhabis, are like daggers which have always pierced the heart of the Muslims from the back,” and announced that Mecca was in the hands of “a band of heretics.”Once more, the Saudis were transformed into what the speaker of the parliament, Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, called “Wahhabi hooligans.” Rafsanjani recalled the nineteenth-century Wahhabi massacres (of Shi‘ites) in Najaf and Karbala, the Wahhabi destruction of Islamic monuments in Medina (venerated by Shi‘ites), and the Wahhabi burning of libraries (containing Shi‘ite works). The Wahhabis “will commit any kind of crime. I ask you to pay more attention to the history of that evil clique so that you can see what kind of creatures they have been in the course of their history.”This represented a deliberate attempt to fuel a present crisis with the memory of past sectarian hatreds.
"Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of a group that has been fighting Israel for decades, declared on Tuesday that “Wahhabism is more evil than Israel,” Lebanon’s Al Akhbar newspaper reported."... "In other words, things have gotten so bad that Hezbollah, Israel’s mortal enemy, now considers Wahhabis — that is, fellow Muslims — to be worse than Israel. Bear in mind, this is coming from the same man who has described Israel as “a cancerous entity and the root of all the crises and wars” and pledged that Israel’s destiny “is manifested in our motto: 'Death to Israel.’”
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Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, militant Wahhabism has undergone a series of face-lifts, but underneath, the ideology remains the same — whether it’s the Taliban, the various incarnations of Al Qaeda or the so-called Islamic State, which is neither Islamic nor a state."...... "Over the past three decades, Riyadh has spent tens of billions of dollars exporting Wahhabism through thousands of mosques and madrasas across the world. From Asia to Africa, from Europe to the Americas, this theological perversion has wrought havoc. As one former extremist in Kosovo told The Times, “The Saudis completely changed Islam here with their money." Though it has attracted only a minute proportion of Muslims, Wahhabism has been devastating in its impact. Virtually every terrorist group abusing the name of Islam — from Al Qaeda and its offshoots in Syria to Boko Haram in Nigeria — has been inspired by this death cult.
In September, the New York Times published an op-ed by Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, entitled “Let Us Rid the World of Wahhabism.”Zarif contends that Wahhabist Islam has become a plague, unleashing terrorism and murderous tumult across the Middle East and throughout the world. He calls Wahhabism a “theological perversion” that has “wrought havoc” and had a “devastating” impact in Islamic communities. The violence committed by jihadist groups such as al-Qaeda is a direct result of “Riyadh’s persistent sponsorship of extremism,” he argues, and this violence is at the root of the current conflicts in the Middle East. He accuses Saudi Arabia of “playing the ‘Iran card’” to induce its allies to take part in the Syrian and Yemeni wars, and he concludes that “concrete action against extremism is needed.” Even though Riyadh caused the mess, Zarif “invite[s]” Saudi Arabia to be part of the solution. That gesture rings hollow given the accusatory tone of the piece. It is clearly a polemic against Iran’s neighbor and archrival, another salvo in their ongoing cold war.