Vernacular Politics, Sectarianism, and National Identity among Syrian Refugees in Jordan
“…do not be of those who associate others with Allah, or of those who have divided their religion and become sects, every faction rejoicing in what it has. And when adversity touches the people, they call upon their Lord, turning in repentance to Him. Then when He lets them taste mercy from Him, at once a party of them associates with their Lord”.
2.1. Islamic Sectarianism in the Literature
2.2. “Poetics of Accusation” and Vernacular Politics: Anthropological Theories of Islamic Sectarianism
2.3. “Dars Deen” in Cyber City
Conflicts of Interest
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The two major divisions or denominations in Islam are between Sunnis and Shi`as. In 632 CE and following the death of the Prophet Mohammed, a major dispute emerged between those who pledged allegiance to the religious and political leadership of either `Ali ibn Abi Talib or Abu Bakr. The former became known as Shi`as, and the latter became known as Sunnis. The early divisions culminated in the Battle of Karbala, in which Yazid I killed Hussein ibn `Ali. In contemporary times, it is estimated that between 85–90% of the world’s Muslims are Sunnis, and 10–15% are Shi`as.
This is, of course, a very controversial understanding of sectarianism that derives from largely now-discredited notions about biological racism. The “Clash of Civilizations” thesis, for example, may interpreted as promoting a biological and, therefore, inevitable perspective on the future of political conflict that is based on religious and sectarian differences (see, for example, O’Hagan 2000). Despite the discredited status, the argument continues to have some currency.
The act of takfir derives from a notable 20th-century Egyptian Islamist theorist, Sayyid Qutb, who wrote extensively on the maladies of the apostasy found in modern nation-states, and proposed “remedies” through an idealized Islamic faith. He advocated that takfir is incumbent on Muslims in contexts in which the state and its leaders are acting in corrupt ways. However, it is considered quite controversial, and mainstream and establishment Islamic scholars oppose the practice, asserting that it promotes zealotry, sanctions violence against the state and society, and is ultimately a forbidden act in Islam. See (Karawan 1995; Esposito 2003b).
Here, Umm Mohammed is referencing Sayyidah Zaynab bint `Ali, who was one of the daughters of `Ali, the fourth Islamic caliphate and the first Shi`a Imam, and Sayyidah Ruqayya, who is also known as Sukayna bint Husayn, was a young daughter of Al-Husayn ibn `Ali and is commemorated in Shi`a tradition. Both of these notable Shi`a women are believed to be buried in Damascus in mosques named after each of them, respectively. These mosques are often sites for Shi`a pilgrimage.
The Islamic statement of faith, testimony, or “witness” translates to “There is no god, but God (Allah), and Mohammed is the Prophet of God (Allah)”. Reciting the shahada is the first of the five pillars of Islam. The shahada is generally agreed to require a heartfelt faith and sincerity of belief, and its recitation is considered a “work of the tongue”. See (Clarke 2009).
Fitna derives from the Arabic root (f-t-n), which means “to burn”. The word is literally a burning of temptation or trial. By extension, it also means sedition and civil strife. References in early Islam point to the trials and tribulations faced by the early Muslim community, particularly those that led to the division of the Muslim community into Sunnis and Shi`as. See (Williams 2009). This is also discussed in detail later in this article.
It is important to note that some scholars of Jordan or the region might see the content of the dars as quite shocking. I did. I have never heard Jordanians talking like this. Occasionally there are anti-Semitic comments—typically tied to Israel and Zionists—and very rarely comments against Shi`as by Jordanians—most of whom have never met any Shi‘as, or least none that they know of. However, I have never heard this kind of language in Jordan against Christians or “the West”, or against people who pray at saints’ tombs.
Fitna is also the title of a 2008 short film by Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders that was highly criticized and delegitimized. Approximately 17 minutes in length, the film attempts to demonstrate that the Qur’an motivates its followers to hate all who violate Islamic teachings. The movie shows selected excerpts from the Qur’an, interspersed with media clips and newspaper cuttings showing or describing acts of violence and/or hatred by Muslims. The film argues that Islam encourages—among other things—acts of terrorism, anti-semitism, violence against women, violence and subjugation of infidels and against homosexuals, and Islamic universalism. In an interview, Wilders stated that he specifically wanted a title that also features in the Quran. In his opinion, the word fitna refers to situations in which a Muslim’s faith is tested. He claimed that he uses the term “reciprocally”. Mr. Wilders said: “Islam and the Koran are my ordeal. For me, this pernicious Islam is fitna” (Trouw 2008).
It is currently believed that Jordan has one of the highest numbers of foreign fighters working for ISIS in Syria and Iraq, at around 2000 people. Furthermore, cities such as Ma`an and Zarqa display open support for ISIS. As of late 2014, only 62% of Jordanians labeled ISIS a terrorist organization. However, the very public and highly visible immolation of Jordanian fighter pilot Moaz Al-Kasabeh by ISIS, followed by the public outrage and galvanization of nationalist sentiment, appears to have lessened support for ISIS.
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Tobin, S.A. Vernacular Politics, Sectarianism, and National Identity among Syrian Refugees in Jordan. Religions 2018, 9, 225. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9070225
Tobin SA. Vernacular Politics, Sectarianism, and National Identity among Syrian Refugees in Jordan. Religions. 2018; 9(7):225. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9070225Chicago/Turabian Style
Tobin, Sarah A. 2018. "Vernacular Politics, Sectarianism, and National Identity among Syrian Refugees in Jordan" Religions 9, no. 7: 225. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9070225