No longer restricted by a repressive regime, Sunni Muslims are turning to militant expressions of the faith, preaching jihad in key mosques and organizing politically to wield greater influence in the country, reports the Christian Science Monitor (July 28).
While still on the fringes of Sunni Islam in Iraq, the radical preachers are serving as a rallying point for those Iraqis whose faith has deepened since the U.S. invasion and the subsequent turmoil, writes Dan Murphy. The new Sunni preachers consider themselves as “salafy,” or those who want to return to a pure form of Islam practiced during the “golden age” of Mohammed’s time that would make Iraq an Islamic state. Most of the current insurgent activity, such as the fighting in Fallujah, is now conducted by Sunnis, who view Muslim deaths as martyrdom for a holy cause.
But many of these preachers are also seeking a firm political base. In such a group as the new Association of Muslim Scholars, these political-minded Sunnis have acted as important brokers between foreign officials, the interim government, and the “jihadis” thought to be behind the recent spate of kidnappings. Though fiercely anti-American, the association has come under fire from militants for supporting greater unity between Sunnis and Shi’ites. Critics, however, charge that even more moderate Sunni preachers are entertaining dreams of an Islamic society modeled along the lines of Saudi Arabia.