Sunni Shia Squabbles amongst British Muslims

By the bloody standards of Middle Eastern sectarianism, it is a slight affair. On the fourth day of Ramadan, dawn worshippers in Bradford found the wall of their husseiniya, or Shia mosque, daubed with the word “KAFIR” (infidel). But flare-ups, once rare, between Britain’s 400,000-odd Shias and 2.3m Sunnis are on the rise.

Safdar Shah, one of the husseiniya’s founders, says that 30 years ago, when most of the city’s Sunnis and Shias arrived from the Pakistani side of Kashmir, they often prayed together. But over the past year leaflets denouncing Shias have circulated on city buses, and Sunnis have launched a boycott of two Shia-owned takeaways in Little Horton, a neighbourhood where over half the population is Asian. A flurry of tweets enjoin Sunnis to “stay away from Shia”. Community elders fear the identity politics sweeping the Middle East are seeping into Britain’s school playgrounds, prisons and mosques.

Opinion is divided over the cause of the surge in identity politics. “When people are unhappy, have no jobs and are disaffected they need a pastime,” says Nussrat Mohammed, a Labour councillor. Unlike the gleaming glass towers of nearby Leeds, Bradford’s squat skyline of sandstone seems stuck in the time-warp of the Industrial Revolution (bar the minarets). Residents accuse

The crescent and the cross. Getty Images
The crescent and the cross. Getty Images

the council, the government and above all Britain’s sometimes histrionic media for portraying the city as a trough of extremism.

Others say preachers stoke the division. Most of the country’s 27 Muslim seminaries are Deobandi, a purist form of South Asian Islam. Once a minority among Pakistanis in Britain, with the young this puritanical tendency is gaining ground against the Barelvi tradition, whose colourful customs reflect the popular religious practices of Pakistan.

Sectarian battles in Pakistan and the Gulf ripple back to Bradford. Outside the town hall, Sunnis and Shias have staged protests against rival factions in Syria’s civil war. “The politics there are played out here,” says Amjad Pervez, a leading local businessman, who worries that Kashmiri politicians join the campaign trail in Bradford’s elections. “The monsters fed from abroad have grown too big to be handled by one organisation—even the British government,” he says.

Sunni-Shia divide in the UK

With many Islamic Societies at British universities mostly under Sunni leadership, the sectarian divides so bitterly apparent in much of the Middle East between the Sunni majority and the Shia minority are making themselves felt here in the UK.

The two main branches of Islam emerged following the death of the Prophet Muhammad, in 632, and a battle for influence across the Middle East between mainly Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia-dominated Iran is involved in much of the conflict.

However a Sunni student believes that the bigger divides in the UK are within Sunni Islam, rather than between Sunni and Shia. “I don’t necessarily know if the tensions have spilled over from the Middle East, as essentially that’s 1,400 years’ worth of disagreement,” she says.

At Leicester Central Mosque, Dr Ather Hussain al Asri – a Sunni Imam and writer – also believes that the increase in tensions here is caused by a particular strand of Sunni Islam. “Wahhabism is very small in terms of its numbers, but unfortunately in terms of finances, Wahhabi Islam is very strong in this country and that is because they are getting direct funding from the Middle East.

“So what they lack in numbers, they are making up for it in terms of organisation. Unfortunately, they are operating in universities and through social media, and they prey on the vulnerability of our youth.”

Press Release from Bertrand Dutheil de la Rocher, Republic-Secularism Advisor to Marine Le Pen

Bertrand Dutheil de la Rocher released a press statement discussing Islam in France. He states, “In recent days, discussions are circulating in social networks about Islam in France that involve the Marine Blue Gathering. The law is of a contingent nature. Its extent and its contents are decided according to the common good, variable at different times, by the people, either directly or through their elected representatives.” He reminded the public that “individual liberties are only restricted by necessity…Religious liberty is therefore a right so long as it does not contradict republican law and does not harm others. It’s up to every religion to conform to these conditions of secularism. However, no one can forget that for centuries, the genius of the French nation has expressed itself through Catholicism, notably in its Gallican and Jansenist readings.”

He added that “It’s up to Muslims of France to adapt their religious practices in accepting that, in the public sphere, the contingent law of the Republic is above the law of God, even if they think it is of a transcendent nature.” He stated that every religion’s funding must come from its believers, it cannot come from public money nor from grants from abroad. “To combat secularism is to undermine the social contract and attack citizens who have other metaphysical ideas. The Republic must defend itself against the risk of subversion,” he added. “The fact that there is no clergy in Sunnism risks to encourage its believers huddle in communitarianism,” he said, “ so they do not find themselves isolated in uncertainty and facing their responsibilities, especially when crimes are committed in the name of their faith.”

“With Marine Le Pen, the Marine Blue Gathering wants to assimilate all Frenchmen into the same people beyond their religion and origins. In order for this assimilation to take place, it is necessary to immediately halt all immigration, illegal of course, but also legal. With the country facing mass unemployment, France cannot give newcomers the basics. We must also fight the nation’s denigration by its elites. All Frenchmen must be proud to be French, proud of their French history. The ownership of each person of the national novel is a condition of citizenship. The school must again become a place for the transmission of knowledge,” he concluded.

Escalation between Sunnis and Shiites also threatens The Netherlands

June 29, 2014

“Of all the groups in the world that are known for their lies, they are stabbing head and shoulders above the rest. Lying is in their nature. This
people want to destroy Islam.” This is a quote from one of the many Salafi sermons in Dutch mosques circulating on the Internet. The “they” in these quotations refer to Shiites, alleged enemies of the Sunnis who are worse, according to other quotes, in the hierarchy, than “Zionists.” One Salafi Facebook page reads: “Shi’ite Islam is pure and total terror.”

Shia organizations held a demonstration last Sunday against terrorism in Iraq before and invited everyone, including Sunnis.

Jihadist Dutch elements were arrested for intervening with a counter-demonstration.