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 Mesaj Başlığı: Algeria promotes Sufism in hopes of peace
MesajGönderilme zamanı: 27.07.09, 20:38 #mesajın linki (?)

Kayıt: 17.01.09, 16:49
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Algeria promotes Sufism in hopes of peace

J. Samia Mair

Baltimore Muslim Examiner

July 13, 9:28 PM ... s-of-peace

According to a recent article by Reuters reporter Lamine Chikhi, Algerian authorities are promoting Sufism to counter violence that has plagued the country since the 1990’s. Some estimate that 200,000 people have died in the conflict between the government and its opponents.

Mohamed Idir Mechnane, an official with the Ministry of Religious Affairs, reportedly told Reuters that "We are doing a lot to encourage people to come back to our traditional Islam: a peaceful, tolerant and open-minded Islam. And thanks to God, people are much more attracted by our message than by the Salafi message.”

The authorities believe that Sufis are more concerned with prayer and spiritual exercises than with politics.

To this end, the Algerian government has sponsored a television and radio station to promote Sufism and Sufis. Sufi Sheikhs also regularly appear on other stations, all of which are described as “tightly controlled by the state”.

According to Reuters, the idea to employ Sufism to combat violence is not new. A 2007 report by The RAND Corporation* (a U.S. think tank) Building Moderate Muslim Networks states:

Immediately relevant to this study is the fact that Salafis and Wahhabis are relentless enemies of traditionalists and Sufis. Whenever radical Islamist movements have gained power they have sought to suppress the practice of traditionalist and Sufi Islam, as in the well-known destruction of early Islamic monuments in Saudi Arabia. Because of their victimization by Salafis and Wahhabis, traditionalists and Sufis are natural allies of the West to the extent that common ground can be found with them.

Not everyone agrees with the official strategy. Reuters reports that Sheikh Abdelfatah, an influential Algerian imam, believes Sufism promotes charlatanism, not change, and that "Salafism is good and combats harmful ideas. We encourage our youth to follow the rules of Islam and get away from the western way of life.”

Although the article associates “ultra-conservative Salafism” with much of the violence, it also notes that many leading Salafis reject violence and since 9/11 “several Salafist clerics have issued religious decrees condemning violence”. Moreover, last year the Algerian Salafist cleric Abdelmalek Ramdani, who now lives in Saudi Arabia, apparently told his followers to avoid politics and to stop using violence.

Sufism is controversial in the United States and other places as well. Some Muslims consider Sufis innovators and very far from the Straight Path. Others like the focus that Sufism places on personal spiritual growth and believe those who reject the spiritual aspect of Islam are missing the point.

Part of the problem with the debate is that there is no set definition of a Sufi. Is a Sufi someone who has attained ihsan (excellence in conduct and piety)? Someone who follows a Sufi sheikh? Someone who does certain spiritual exercises? Or someone who reads spiritual literature? I have heard all of these definitions used. I also have heard people label another Muslim a Sufi even though that person does not even consider him- or herself a Sufi.

The above discussion leads me back to an article posted here last week: Salafi, Sufi, Sunni, Shia, Progressive--what about Muslim? Muslims should stop labeling themselves and other Muslims. Labeling accentuates the differences and leads to discord.

Many of the problems facing the Ummah (Muslim community) require a more unified response. This is not going to be easy as there are major differences among Muslims on how best to address certain issues. But even children know that name calling is never a good place to start.

* RAND describes itself as “a nonprofit research organization providing objective analysis and effective solutions that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors around the world.”

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