Salafism on the rise

Tunisia in North Africa (via Wikipedia)
Tunisia in North Africa (via Wikipedia)

I’m still working to make up time and tasks after being gone for the (uplifting!) COE meetings last week, but this bit of news caught my eye. included in their daily Middle East briefing an excerpt from The Cairo Review of Global Affairs article “Salafism’s March through North Africa” including this excerpt from the excerpt:

“‘This is not the Tunisia we know,’ the head of a respected Tunisian think tank told me as thousands of Salafists marched through the heart of Tunis’s old Medina, steps from one of its most exclusive restaurants, one that serves premium French wine under the watchful eye of a stern sommelier.

“But the city was Tunis, and the protestors were Tunisians. One of the Arab world’s most progressive societies, with one of the most active civil society environments in the entire Arab world, and a notable history of gender equality and secularism, is clearly witnessing the rise of an assertive socio-political force that defines itself exclusively under a strict religious frame of reference. The scale of these marches -and various other forms of assertiveness-and the frequency with which they take place indicate that this trend is far from marginal or dismissible.

“In Egypt’s last parliamentary election, Salafist parties won about a quarter of the votes. Amid the polarization that the country is currently witnessing, several Salafist voices and parties are increasingly influential in the political sphere. And the rise of Salafism is also taking place in Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Syria, Sudan, and in other Arab countries.”

The reconfiguration of the Middle East continues. And for those who understand the difference between Salafism and Sunni Islam and Shiite Islam, Iran does not look in any way as if it will be the King of the South, regardless of what some self-appointed prophets have said. (For a quick wiki-primer, you can check out Sunni Islam, Shia Islam, Shia-Sunni relations, and Salafi movement.) Admittedly, the understanding of prophecy drives the understanding of news, and not the other way around (something another self-appointed prophet has occasional trouble with), and it is always possible God could accomplish something different with the Sunni-Shiite divide, but ignoring it makes no sense at all.

I continue to think that the results of the so-called “Arab Spring” shouldn’t be taken for granted to go one way or the other. But the growing influence of Salafism in Tunisia is noteworthy. The article referenced above goes on to discuss the fact that more affluent Arabs and those of younger generations may pose a cultural hurdle to those who wish to spread more radical and strict religious worldviews, which makes sense. When the King of the South does come on the scene, his rise will likely (IMHO) involve a combination of taking advantage of the sentiment of the times and a certain savvy crafting of that sentiment, channeling–slightly or strongly, as needed–the forces at play in the Arab world such that even if they are not completely unified in direction, the resulting net direction is empowering.

Regardless, the report highlights the great volatility of Arab and Middle East culture these days, and in that volatility many will find opportunity.

3 thoughts on “Salafism on the rise

  1. obeirne

    Hello Mr. Smith: Once again a very timely comment from you as things hot up in the countries where Islam is the dominant factor. The volatility of the situation in the Middle-East as a whole is most disquieting and it certainly appears that the final jigsaw pieces are being fitted into place right before our eyes. It seems that the Western world as a whole isn’t able to see that the so-called Arab Spring isn’t what it hoped and anticipated it might be. Democracy in the style of Western Europe or the free Western world as a whole is unlikely to have been the real objective of the instigators of the current turmoil, but rather some more tightly controlled is the ultimate aim. The Western democracies that supported and encouraged the rebellion against the status quo will undoubtedly rue the day they gave approval and encouraged the murderous turmoil now shaking to the foundations much of the Arab world. Even if the Salafist elements elements don’t manage to be the largest body of influence in whatever power structures that finally emerge, it is not unlikely that they will me able to manipulate the exercise of power and ultimately seize control at some stage in the not too distant future. Right now there doesn’t appear to be any dominant personality who is potentially the King of the South, but that he is somewhere in the mix is a high probability. The position of Egypt must be carefully monitored by the powers that be in the West, but we in the Living Church of God have to watch the signs of the times with even more vigilance.

  2. It is good of you to point out the Sunni-Shia divide in the Muslim world. I bring that up whenever I am asked about Iran’s role in prophecy and the news. Iran (issues of geography aside) will not be the prophesied King of the South, because they are of the minority in the Muslim world. They may be a troublemaker, but not a significant driver in world events (but those in Asia the prop them up likely will be). It is interesting to add… that Bashar Al-Assad (the current ruler of Syria) is Alowite [sp?]. Alowites are a rather obscure sect of Shia – reportedly among the strictest Twelvers… notice that almost the entire Arab world (dominated by Sunnis) has taken positions against the Assads.

    … on an unrelated note, I enjoy reading about your travels and experiences working with and at HQ.

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