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Research Report

Fearing a ‘Shiite Octopus’: Sunni – Shi‘a relations and the implications for Belgium and Europe

Jelle Puelings
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2010
Published by: Egmont Institute
Pages: 45
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 5-6)

    Some years ago, the Saudi preacher Mamduh ibn `Ali al-Harbi held a sermon under the title of al-Ikhtabut ash-Shi`i fi’l-`Alam (‘The Shiite Octopus in the world), brandishing Shiites as unbelievers, agents of Iran and criticizing their hidden agenda to take over the Islamic World². Although the condemnation of Shiism by more rigorous Islamic currents such as Wahhabism, is hardly new, recently different governments in the Middle East have addressed their deep concerns and even took concrete measures against Shiite actors. The same ‘Cold War scenario’ the region witnessed immediately after the Iranian Revolution seems to appear again, making Arab Sunni...

  2. (pp. 7-22)

    Since the US invasion in Iraq and the end of the Ba`th regime, much has been said and written on Shiite empowerment and the apparent change in the ‘sectarian power balance’ in the Middle East. In 2004 King `Abd Allah II of Jordan expressed his fear for a ‘Shiite Crescent’, stretching from the Persian Gulf towards the Mediterranean, the area thus becoming the backyard of Iran⁵. Two years later, Egyptian president Husni Mubarak added to the controversy by stating that ‘Shiites are mostly always loyal to Iran and not to the countries they live in’⁶. As such, this was soon...

  3. (pp. 23-38)

    The first part of this paper focused on the developments within the Middle Eastern Shiite community, what the limitations are of a ‘Shiite Crescent’-approach and what the role of Iran in this construction. In part two, we will take a closer look at how religious identities are becoming the object of political instrumentalization, how regional power play lies behind a more outspoken distrust towards Shiism, and how the claims and fears over Shiite proselytism fit into this controversy. At the end, we will consider the eventual points of concern for EU and Belgian internal security policies.

    Within the more radical...

  4. (pp. 39-41)

    To conclude, we should revisit some of the core issues, that add to the demarcation of the Sunni-Shi`a controversy and how to approach it. The movement of Shiite Islamism has originated in the Middle East as a reaction to historical events (the end of the Ottoman empire and the beginning of colonialism, the foundation of national States), and as a drive to obtain social promotion of the Shiites. The Iranian Revolution is to be seen as one of the pinnacles of this movement, not as the beginning of it. In other countries, Shiite movements were working to fulfill their own...