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Just yesterday I finally stopped ignoring the Middle East and looked up a few things. Like who is Shia and who is Sunni. And who has nukes and where. And what exactly an Islamist is. It was....a useful exercise. Anyone else out there taking an interest in this juncture of history? I'm ready to be educated.

It just seems to me, after one *ok a fraction of one* day of looking into it, that the majority Sunnis in most of the Middle East have been supremely frustrated trying to deal with their less conservative, more secular Shia neighbors. And it seems clear to me that America has at least attempted to enact a separation of church and state, even though those words do not appear in the constitution. It was in the First Amendment to the US Constitution that Congress was to "make no law respecting respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". As wikipedia points out, lots of nations have this idea in their code, and there is a great range of shades of gray in its execution. Here in America we do fairly well, but nowhere near a perfect score. For one thing, the constitution has no control over the states and what local laws might be passed. Which may be how we have gigantic crosses along Interstate 5 in Washington State. Not so different from other places, where religion is supposed to guide personal and political life. Here we seem only able to elect Christian presidents. We like to think that we are above it, but we are surely not.

So I know I am rambling and I will call it quits. If you have an opinion about what is the crux of what is going on--in Syria, Turkey, Kurdistan, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Russia or any other involved party, feel free to comment and tell me! I'm building a mind map.

**Created Syria tag.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 5th, 2013 03:24 pm (UTC)
Not really. Thing is, the Sunnis and the Shia are both religious to similar levels. For instance, I don't think that Shia Iran is particularly more liberal than Sunni Saudi Arabia. Both sects have significant numbers of terrorist organizations that pay allegiance to them. And the mainstream Muslims generally support the terrorist organization that is of their sect (Muslims in Iran support Hezbollah, Muslims in Saudi support Al Qaeda).

The tea party itself has *nothing* to do with religion. It is a *purely* a small government advocacy organization. It so happens that there is overlap between the religious groups in the US and those that object to massive taxation and spending, but it's not part of the tea party position.

As for turkey, Islamism, etcetera, those ALSO have nothing to do with sect. Islamists come from both Sunni and Shia. The primary characteristic of Islamism is a desire to institute a global caliphate, which means governing every nation under Sharia law. The Sunni and the Shia have some very minor disagreements regarding what that means. But there are no differences as mean-spirited as minor differences.

Turkey is a fairly secular country due to widespread exposure to European liberal democracies, but is being governed by an increasingly Islamist government. Partly due to demographic shifts, and partly due to baksheesh from oil rich Islamist nations. Many in the populace dislike that trend, so we get riots.
Jun. 5th, 2013 09:27 pm (UTC)
Thanks for replying! Our ignorance is reversible.

From my brief study is appears that the Islamist governments are all Sunni, and that the predominance of terrorist activity also comes from that side. The Russians are frightened of the Sunni Islamists and think that we are foolish to be so friendly with them.

Note: I did not say the Shia are more liberal, no, rather I said less conservative. Both factions are clearly very conservative.

The Turkish president is an academic and pretended to be secular to get elected. Then the Muslim Brotherhood colors shine through. The Brotherhood is Sunni.

The Tea Party didn't start out to be about religion, and the Arab Uprising was democratic in its original impulse as well. Things evolve. The dominant population in any group influences its eventual manifestation.

I would be very interested if you could show me one (or more) Shia Islamist government or party, to help me see the other side of what I found in my short study.

Jun. 6th, 2013 01:30 am (UTC)
For openers, Iran is Shia. I don't think that anyone would question that Iran is not an Islamist state. Also, Bahrain. That's 2 out of the 3 primarily Shia, Muslim majority nations. The third, Azerbaijan, is still dealing with the aftermath of splitting off from the Soviet Union.

Hezbollah is a Shia terrorist organization.

The thing is, only roughly 10% of the Muslim world is shia, So they are hampered in forming Islamist Shia governments or committing terrorist acts on account of being badly outnumbered by Sunnis, who notably dislike Shia. Where there are Shia majorities in Muslim majority countries, you get Shia Islamist governments.

The Russians are probably right. But they are playing "fistfull of dollars" type games. When you have 2 sides that are both dangerous, hate you, and, at their earliest opportunity, will invade and enslave you, BUT, they can be persuaded to fight each other instead.... The pragmatic course of action is clear. You encourage the weaker to fight against the stronger, and support them in that fight.

BUT, we have had some very bad press when we have done that kind of thing in the past, including, but not limited to, supporting the secular (but unfortunately insane) Saddam Hussein against the islamist Iranian revolutionaries, Supporting the Mujahadeen against the soviets (which Mujahadeen later became Al Qaeda), Etcetera, etcetera. So, out of fear of being judged, we try to stay out of that fray, because there's no fun to be had being involved. There are no good guys in that game, only weaker bad guys that can slow down stronger bad guys, and we no longer have the will to make that sort of decision.

On the tea party,

http://www.teaparty.org/about-us/ Does this read like a religious movement to you?

How about this?

The meme that the tea party is in any way about religion or social conservatism is a baldfaced lie. It's an *effective* baldfaced lie, and one that has been very often repeated in certain leftist circles. But it is simply, demonstrably, factually incorrect. Again, it happens that *some* of the "darlings of the tea party" are social conservatives, but that isn't what gets one the tea party vote, what gets the tea party endorsement is *purely* fiscal sanity.

Not saying that there *isn't* a substantial Christian conservative movement, but the tea party isn't where you'll find it.

I do generally have something of a problem with using the term conservative" in this context. It sort of implies similarity between the conservatives here and the thing that the Islamists are. There are similarities, but the differences far outweigh them. Much like in 1945, it might well have been appropriate to refer to the NSDAP as "right wing", but on a political spectrum test taken today, like this one, the National Socialist German Workers Party would be *far* left. The political spectrum of Islamic nations is different enough to our own that comparison is difficult.

The staunchest of our mainstream conservatives (the Rick Santorum voters) would change very little from the current condition. They'd change abortion laws, which I would find lamentable, but I understand and respect their position. Other than that, the "social conservative" agenda is almost ALL "holding the line" and not changing things from the present state. Comparing "homosexuals are deserving of equal protection under the law, but marriage is between a man and a woman" to "women who get raped must be stoned for adultery" is... an apples to grapes comparison, they don't belong on the same spectrum.

The US conservatives want a very "free" country. The islamists want a *very* restrictive country. In "votematch" terms, they're very nearly opposites.
Jun. 6th, 2013 08:11 pm (UTC)
Awesome reply, thank you. I will continue working on my mind map and see what questions arise. I knew, of course, that Iran is Shia, but the other two hadn't crossed my horizon yet. It is no surprise that the Shia are nasty, being the minority in most of the MidEast.

You are right, it had not registered with me exactly how Islamist Iran is. I know a little of their history and Iran was once a more democratic and secular than the rest of the MidEast. I would like to think that it can happen again. There are a lot of educated people there.

I understand that the Tea Party is explicitly non-religious in nature, however the borders get blurred by time and demographics. As an agnostic or atheist (depending on who I'm talking to), I can vouch for a whole lotta Tea Party people having issues based on "Christian (or family) values" at the forefront of what they want to accomplish politically. It's not as clean as the TP website would have it. I personally hold positions on social issues that are distinct from both US liberals and conservatives, so I get pegged as being the "other" by both sides.

When I talk about "conservatism" I am talking about a psychological mindset, and not about any particular dogma or political position. Rather it is an aversion to change, and an allegiance to tradition. Many times that tradition is religious, but not necessarily. Here in America, we have some traditions about freedom that are strongly promoted by conservatives.
Jun. 7th, 2013 12:48 am (UTC)
Yeah, it's weird how national identities change. Sometimes *incredibly* fast and dramatically. For instance Syria is currently having something of a revolution. That revolution started out as secular objections to a tyrant. BUT, revolutions require arms. And in the middle east, which sub-national organizations can you think of that might be able to get arms to a revolution? Well.... That'd be Al Qaeda. So a lot of previously secular revolutionaries in Syria are turning to Islamists as the only means to successfully prosecute their revolution. In 10 years, we're very likely to have a completely Islamist Syria. (I have a friend that's a syria analyst, none of what I just said is classified :) )

I know that part of the reason that we're letting that happen instead of doing anything to help the Syrian rebels (which might prevent that) is how things went in Iran. In Iran, we, for a time, supported what looked like the lesser of 2 evils. Honestly, that might have been the proximate cause of Iran's turn to Islamism.

So you're probably right, Iran *could* swing back. It's even possible that stronger leadership from us in the 2009-2010 election protests, or again in the 2010-2011 "day of rage" protests might have had that result.

I know that a lot of tea partiers are religious types. There's overlap. But when pondering what a specific thing is, it's important to keep separate things separate. Many tea partiers are religious, but the tea party is not religious. Many doctors support single payer, but that doesn't make the AMA a pro single payer organization :). As an athiest/agnostic, I can vouch that a LOT of tea partiers are similarly adiestic :).

Anyway, I agree that the term "conservative" applies to both the way you were using it, it's just kind of important to be aware of exactly what usage of a term we're using for any given conversation. It's *particularly* important when we're mixing paradigms and applying the same word differently within a conversation! To use the "disliking change" definition in regards to Sunni, and mix it in with the tea party, which is conservative only in the fiscal conservative sense is quite fraught.

Particularly given that the bulk of the Islamist governments are extremely socialistic.
Jun. 7th, 2013 09:49 pm (UTC)
Yep. Well to tell the truth, that title was really just a test to see if anyone was listening. I guess you were the only one. =-]
Jun. 8th, 2013 06:34 am (UTC)
It's possible that others were frightened into silence.


Be aware that you and I may be committing actual prosecutable crimes by having this conversation.

"The area’s top federal prosecutor, Bill Killian, will address a topic that most Americans are likely unfamiliar with, even those well versed on the Constitution; that federal civil rights laws can actually be violated by those who post inflammatory documents aimed at Muslims on social media. “This is an educational effort with civil rights laws as they play into freedom of religion and exercising freedom of religion,” Killian says in the local news story. “This is also to inform the public what federal laws are in effect and what the consequences are.”"

In combination with a bunch of other things that have recently come to light, like this,

TL:DR, the government is secretly datamining all the major websites, including google, facebook, etcetera for.... Well, something. They're not clear about what exactly. Not exactly surprising, but one could have hoped we weren't *really* living a scarier version of 1984.

And this:

Tl:DR, the government, not just one agency, but several different agencies in several departments has been systematically targeting conservative leaning organizations in an incredibly widespread and destructive abuse of power.

And... And... And... I could go on virtually indefinitely.

I think it's just possible that the augered effect of these attacks may indeed be having a chilling effect on the speech of those.... more sensible than myself. Things are really quite scary at the moment.
Jun. 8th, 2013 07:09 pm (UTC)
Goodness. If we can't talk about stuff like race, religion, politics, culture to try to gain understanding, we will never find any solutions. I can only hope that the powers that be have some integrity left, to make reasonable compassionate decisions instead of being cogs in a grinding machine.

Oh well. I appreciate your willingness to educate me as obviously I need it. =-]
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )



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