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“Catalytic Converters”

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The New York Times has put out the article that I referred to earlier

Again, not on the strength of any theological arguments, but using the “resistance” factor and the people’s blind hatred. I suppose if communists were to successfully “resist” Israel, they would become communist too.

The Middle East is abuzz with talk of “Shiitization.” Since the war in Lebanon last summer, newspapers, TV news channels and Web sites in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere have reported that Sunnis, taken with Hezbollah’s charismatic Shiite leader Hassan Nasrallah and his group’s “resistance” to Israel, were converting to Shiite Islam. When I recently visited the semi-arid plains of eastern Syria, known as the Jazeera, Sunni tribal leaders whispered stories of Iranians roaming the Syrian countryside handing out bags of cash and macaroni to convert families and even entire villages to Shiite Islam.

[…]

Over the last five years, however, Iranian donors have financed the restoration of half a dozen Shiite tombs and shrines in Syria and built at least one Shiite religious school near Damascus; the school is named after Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei. Meanwhile, Iran and the Shiite militias it supports in Iraq now sponsor a number of Arabic-language Internet portals as well as satellite TV stations broadcasting Shiite religious programming into Syria.

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If this trend continues – insha Allah it will not – the Shi’ah will inevitably start handing out pamphlets with slander of Aisha and other Companions on it, which will in turn anger those who love, honor and respect the Companions – and stoke the flames of sectarianism. The Shi’ah will then claim to be “oppressed” and wonder where all this “hatred” is coming from.

When I asked Sayyid Abdullah Nizam, leader of Syria’s Shiite community, to estimate the size of his flock, he put it at less than 1 percent of the population of 19 million. Asked the same question, the leader of Syria’s Sunnis, Grand Mufti Sheik Ahmad Badr Eddin Hassoun, replied carefully; he said that 6 to 8 percent of Syrians now adhere to the “Jaafari school,” the school of Islamic jurisprudence followed by mainstream Shiites in Iran and Lebanon.

It was only when I met an actual convert that the mufti’s words began to make sense. Louay, a 28-year-old teacher in Damascus wearing jeans, a wool sweater and a close-cropped beard, seemed the epitome of the capital’s Sunni middle class. Yet within the last year, as Hezbollah rose to national prominence in the Lebanese government, he — along with his mother — began practicing Shiite Islam. He changed the wording of his prayers and his posture while praying, holding his arms at his sides instead of before him, and during Ramadan he followed Shiite customs on breaking the fast.

…and don’t forget the “infallible imams” and of course reviling and slandering the Companions. Of course, following of desires is part of it too…

Politics, it seems, is only one of the attractions of Shiism. In addition to Louay, I spoke with four other Syrian converts, who asked not to be identified for fear of harassment by Sunni fundamentalists. Louay and the others all spoke of religious transformation as much as of Hezbollah. “Half the reason why I converted was because of Ijtihad,” Louay said, using the Arabic word for the independent interpretation of the Koran and the words and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad. Suddenly the mufti’s enigmatic answer became clearer. Ijtihad is practiced more widely by Shiites of the Jaafari school than by Sunnis. These Shiites believe that, on all but the largest moral issues, Muslims should interpret their faith by reading holy texts and reasoning back and forth between them and current issues. Many Sunnis say they quietly practice Ijtihad in everyday life as well, but conservative Sunnis do not encourage individual interpretation of the Koran

Ijtihad (when one is qualified) is one thing. Interpreting the Qur’an in any way a person feels like is another. No need to study tafseer or asbaab an-nazool or to consult with people of knowledge who have studied this. Just pick up a copy of the mushaaf and make it mean what you want it to mean. Make what you want to be permissible become permissible.

Part of the good news is that I don’t think they will gain much ground here in the West – outside of importing more immigrants. For all the problems that mainstream Muslims in the West have with seeming to be unconcerned with converts because of culture and being too wrapped up in political issues, the shi’ah have this problem to the 1,110th degree, because they are totally about culture and politics. An American convert to shiaism has to become a total lacky for the Iranians or the Hezbo thugs and there is no room for development otherwise. And – as I said – the danger is that once the conflict is over or dies down, the religion is over. Thus the problem with the movement mentality

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