I have been asked to explain for the general public how it is that Hamas ("The Movement for Islamic Resistance"), A Sunni Muslim organization has come to be supported by the Shia theocracy in Iran. How this happened will be well known to many readers here, but not to others. Naturally the comments and interventions of Muslims and specialists will be welcome.
– The bar between Sunni and Shia Islam has never been as high as it seems to outsiders unfamiliar with Islamic history and the religious sciences. These two forms of the faith have existed in uneasy but endurable coexistence since the rise of Shiism as a different understanding of the meaning of the Quranic revelation.
In the first centuries of Islam there were many possible interpretations of Islam. Sufism, Kharaji separatism, Mu'tazilism, etc. These and many more contesting forms of Islam existed then and somehow managed to co-exist in mutual but not terminal animosity. As I have often insisted, Islam is an endlessly fractious religio-political conception. This is inherent in the faith because of the very way in which Sharia law is derived from scripture, practice and tradition and then accepted by bodies of believers through the process of religioususus consensus called in Arabic Ijma'. This process continues today with every large or small consensus group believing itself to be practicing true Islam. I will restrain myself from discussing Sufism here in the interest of general readability.
– Nearly all these consensus groups share the notion that it is the duty of true Muslims to defend the world-wide community of believers (Muslims) against the attacks of outsiders. Islam aspires to an end of days scenario in which all people will be Muslims. Many of the Islamic consensus groups that I have mentioned above have believed that it is their particular destiny as true Muslims to be the rulers of this community of believers. The community is called the 'Umma in Arabic. Such ambition has usually been wildly fantasist in the clear inability of the groups to achieve a consensus of Muslims regarding leadership, but the groups aspire to this leadership nonetheless. This aspiration on the part of the takfiri jihadis networked together into what is "shorthanded" as al-Qa'ida enabled the egregious neocon propaganda concerning the imminent and threatening rise of a new Islamic state called "The Caliphate." The pseudo threat posed by "The Caliphate" was claimed to be as great as that posed by the Soviet Union in the Cold War or Nazi Germany. A passing knowledge of Islamic history would reveal to all who cared to know that Islamic unity has been an unattainable goal for many, many centuries. Regrettably, many honest but uninformed people were deceived by this propaganda ploy on the part of the Bush Administration and their neocon friends.
– Nevertheless, in defense of the shining image of the 'Ummaand the belief in a spiritual duty to defend this supposed manifestation of God's will on earth, Muslims and predominately Muslim states feel a deep obligation to defend fellow Muslims against non-Muslim enemies who can be seen as equivalent to the gathering of enemies who attacked the early community of Muslims in the time of the Prophet. In that spirit, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the "Supreme Guide" of Iran made a speech in December in which he firmly associated the Iranian Islamic Republic with Hamas. The bottom line on the Shia/Sunni thing in the context of external attack – Muslims must be defended against non-Muslim and presumably anti-Muslim enemies. Sectarian difference does not matter in this context.
– Against these religious considerations, Iran must weigh its state interests in a world in which there is no 'Umma except as an abstraction. Iran wants an improvement in relations with the United States. The Saudis do not want this any more than the Israelis do. Any such rapprochement would diminish the ability of Saudi Arabia and Israel to manipulate public opinion and politicians in the United States to their continuing benefit. If there were such an improvement in US/Iranian relations, Iran would have a profound conflict of interests to deal with. This is a problem for Hamas and indeed for Hizbullah which lurks below the horizon in the future of a possibly, but improbably changed US foreign policy in the Middle East, i.e., one that treats Israel as a foreign country like all other foreign countries.
– The recent "statement" by someone claiming to be Usama bin Laden is an interesting phenomenon. As the cognoscenti know, the particular views of his"brand" of Muslims do not permit the acceptance of national, ethnic or other such distinctions among God's subjects. Nevertheless, Usama seems to have chosen to back this PALESTINIAN Islamic movement. Hamas should be wary of this lest a takfiri presence and influence lead to the attempt at imposition of norms that occurred in western Iraq.
I bid you all welcome, let the comments begin— pl