Friday, October 01, 2004

Stephen Schwartz on beheadings in Iraq

This is one reason why the war in Iraq is a necessary extension of the global war on terrorism:

"Faced with the series of beheadings and other grisly crimes committed in Iraq by the followers of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Westerners may wonder why this gang should call itself 'Monotheism and Jihad.' The group's Arabic name, Tawhid wa'al-Jihad, is often misleadingly translated "Unity and Jihad," which could lead English-speakers to suppose that Zarqawi and company are acting in the name of a united Iraqi nation, or of Arab unity, or of solidarity among jihadists or Muslims generally.

"But Tawhid does not mean 'unity,' much less 'unification;' it means 'uniqueness,' as in the uniqueness of God the Creator. To understand the theology behind this word is to appreciate the identity of the 'foreign fighters' around Zarqawi--himself born in Jordan--and the purpose of their kidnappings and beheadings.

"All Muslims, of course, are monotheists. Islam rejects the multiple gods and goddesses of the pagan religions, and proclaims the creation of the universe by a single God. But in the 18th century, Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, founder of the Wahhabi sect, asserted that Muslims had fallen away from true monotheism back into pagan unbelief: worship of multiple gods, or polytheism. Wahhabism, now the state religion of Saudi Arabia, continues to assert that Islam as practiced in nearly the whole of the global Muslim community outside the Saudi kingdom is actually apostasy.

"The Arabic term for polytheism is shirk, or 'assigning partners to Allah.' According to the Wahhabi creed, in recent centuries only, the followers of Ibn Abd al-Wahhab and their descendants have been true monotheists. All non-Wahhabis--whether nominally Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, or Buddhist--are steeped in shirk and deserve to be killed so that pure Wahhabi monotheism can reign supreme.

"In this twisted view, the majority of Iraqis are guilty of shirk. Up to 70 percent of Iraqis belong to the Shia sect of Islam, and as such follow the guidance of their imams and ayatollahs, wise theologians recognized for their study and insight. According to the Wahhabis, to follow a supreme cleric or marja like Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, leader of the Iraqi Shias, is to place him on an equal level with God. Shias should therefore be killed as polytheists, their property confiscated, and their women dishonored.

"Wahhabis also hate Shias because they erect elaborate tombs for their martyrs and outstanding clerics and pray at these graves. Wahhabis believe that the very existence of graveyards and tombs is a kind of double polytheism, in which the person memorialized in the grave is elevated to equality with God, and the gravestone or tomb becomes an idol; to pray in cemeteries is, in Wahhabi eyes, to commit an abomination. Thus, once the Shias are killed, their holy sites must be torn down and their graveyards desecrated.

"For this reason, the beheadings carried out in the name of 'monotheism' in Iraq are aimed not only at terrorizing Westerners, but equally at intimidating Shias. . . .

Log on to on Saturday, October 2, to read rest.

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