By Catherine Shakdam, Researcher at al Bayan Center for Planning and Studies
In early October, following pressure from Saudi Arabia intelligence, France ordered a police intervention against the Zahra Center in Dunkirk.
This Shiite organization has made its fight against Wahhabism / Salafism its creed for a long time, and rejects any form of discrimination, religious fundamentalism, or indoctrination, as the founding principle of its Faith.
Built around the concept of resistance against oppression, regardless of what form, label or qualifier, Shiite Islam has been systematically demonized by Saudi Arabia and by those who follow its school of thought.
The French state based its aggression on allegations that the Zahra Center France actively promotes radical Islam, falling under the terms of the French mandate relating to the fight against terrorism.
If such reasoning can stand on paper – if we admit to the fact that France wishes to contain radicalism by denouncing the source of its ideology, France’s logic would melt before the demands of a rational mind.
By choosing the Zahra Center as a legitimate target of France’s counterterrorism efforts, the French authorities deduce that Shiite Islam is the source of the underlying ideology of terror … But we know that this is wrong.
In fact, no religious denomination throughout history has suffered as much from the hands of Islamic radicals as Shiite Islam.
For more than 14 centuries, radicals have declared an “open hunting season” against Shia Muslims – destroying their places of worship, slandering their scholars, mocking their beliefs, accusing their school of thought of heresy, criminalizing their worship, and advocating “religious cleansing” against their communities.
The examples were numerous and well documented. So much so that on October 11, the al-Baqee Organization will challenge Saudi Arabia’s violations of the rights of religious minorities at the UN Human Rights Council.
But to render Caesar his due, I am willing to acknowledge that only the absolute monarchs of the al-Saud have been so determined to remove Shiite Islam from the face of the earth.
Last September, I wrote an article for “The New Eastern Outlook” describing the kingdom’s new efforts to ban Shiite Islam before the Arbaeen pilgrimage to Iraq which is done in order to commemorate the 40th day of the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (pbuh) – grandson of the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). Arbaeen far exceeds the Hajj pilgrimage (more than 17 million to be exact), an affront that the al-Saud, those who consider themselves the owners of Islam rather than mere practitioners, insisted on rectifying.
Where most people were frightened by the horrors of Wahhabism / Salafism, communities have found comfort and safety in Shiite Islam – it has the guarantee that all faiths are offered protection and freedom of practice.
In my analysis I write: “By the very admission of Human Rights Watch, such types of behavior [sectarianism] have reinforced the radicals in their sectarian pursuit.” The Islamic State and al-Qaeda have used it to justify their violence against Saudi Shiites: since mid-2015, the Islamic State has launched attacks against six Shia mosques and religious buildings in the province of and in Najran; a city in the south-west of the country where a large Shiite population resides, killing more than 40 people, “said the rights group.
Wahhabi Saudi Arabia considers Shiite Islam as its main adversary in its quest for hegemony over the Muslim world. Alone in this illusory race, Saudi Arabia is like a puppy chasing its own tail. Shiite Islam does not respect the rules of Wahhabism, it is rather on the side of the right of individuals to choose what, and whom they believe.
Groups such as Al Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram , Al-Nusra and other terrorist groups have had many contracts pouring in to demand the assassination of all “Shia infidels” so that no one can dispute the dogmatic Wahhabism / Salafism worldview.
How many countries in the Middle East have we seen burn under such cries? Have we forgotten the millions of innocent lives lost in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Bahrain and Nigeria?
According to the Parisian authorities, the activities of the Zahra Center would be “monitored in particular because of the strong support given to the leaders of several terrorist organizations and to the movements that defend ideas contrary to the values of the republic”.
Now … and this is important, the lines that follow are serious and heavy with innuendo.
France, under the pretext of defending its republic is slowly setting the tone for anti-Shiism, adding one more arrow to its anti-Iranian arc. I think we’ve seen such a scenario happen too often, as naive as these real political motivations seem to be.
France is not worried about the Zahra Center … if it really wanted to fight terror, it would definitely cut ties with those who set up murder as a public policy, namely Saudi Arabia and other genocidal regimes in the region.
France wants to introduce the idea that Shiite Islam and Iran can be used to focus their anger on all Shia Muslims and feed the psychosis of Saudi Arabia against the Islamic Republic.
Although Iran has defended all people on the basis of principles such as freedom, human rights, sovereignty and political self-determination, it does not speak for the entire Shia community … nor does it pretend to do so.
Flag bearer of Shiite Islam, certainly, but Iran does not claim to be the guardian of Shiite Islam, nor does it aspire to print its name or system of governance on the Muslim world – unlike Saudi Arabia.
The same Saudi Arabia that many among its officials have warned against the nature of its policy and religious creed.
I refer once again to the comments of US Treasury Secretary Stuart Levey when he warned in 2009: “We need to focus on education reform in key places so that intolerance has no place in programs and textbooks. Unless we teach the next generation of children to reject violent extremism, we will always face the challenge of disrupting the next group of terrorist sympathizers. And Saudi Arabia is one of those key places. ”
If anything threatens the republican values of France, it is its friendship with Saudi Arabia; a nation so determined to dissolve opposition to its rule that it has resorted to cannibalism.
After the arrest and alleged torture of more than 30 members of its ruling elite in November 2017 and the kidnapping of Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Washington Post reporter and former Saudi intelligence official last October, I would say that indeed, the kingdom is a dangerous friend …
Shiite Islam on the other hand has already proven to be a valuable partner in defeating and opposing terror.