Current Weather
The Spy FM

Islamists Make Sufi Shrines A Target In North Africa

Filed by KOSU News in World News.
February 10, 2013

When radical Islamists lash out at cultural sites they consider un-Islamic, a frequent target is Sufi Islam shrines.

Islamists in Tunisia have attacked almost 40 Sufi shrines in recent months, Sufi officials told AFP.

And Islamists destroyed several Sufi tombs in the fabled city of Timbuktu in Mali, a place with a long Sufi tradition that is known as the City of 333 Saints, as The New York Times reported.

So why are the Islamists picking on the Sufis?

The Sufis are a relatively small sect of Islam that have historically remained apolitical. They are spread over a vast geographic area that stretches from western Africa across the Middle East and South Asia and all the way to China and Indonesia.

They are perhaps best known for their embrace of mysticism, a spirit of tolerance and for building shrines to Sufi saints.

This latter practice, in particular, is seen as idolatry to Muslims who practice a more rigid and puritanical form of Islam, including Salafists and Wahhabis.

Sufis as a group are not playing leading roles in any of the recent upheavals in the Arab world, but their shrines make convenient targets for some of the hard-line groups that are.

“Shrines for Sufis are everywhere, it’s the mainstream,” says Ed Husain of the Council on Foreign Relations. “The only place they’re missing or are destroyed is in the Gulf. There isn’t a town from Yemen to Morocco to Indonesia without a significant Sufi shrine.”

“The Salafists can’t declare war on ordinary Muslims and win, so they go after mosques and shrines instead,” he adds.

Many Sufis gather at these shrines for veneration, prayer and meditation.

But for radical groups, attacking the shrines fits into their notion of destroying “symbols they consider ungodly, like freedom, democracy, parliament, a constitution,” Husain says.

Many of the attacks have taken place in north Africa in the past couple years in the wake of uprisings.

In Libya last summer, a Sufi grave site in Tripoli was bulldozed, leading to the resignation of Libya’s interior minister.

But periodic attacks have been carried out elsewhere, including Pakistan, where dozens have been killed while visiting shrines. [Copyright 2013 NPR]

Leave a Reply

6AM to 7AM On Being

On Being

On Being engages listeners across the spectrum of belief and non-belief in conversation about life's deepest questions. From autism to the ethics of torture, Krista and her guests reach beyond the headlines to probe faith and meaning, ethics and new ways of being, amidst the political, ecological, economic, cultural and technological shifts that define 21st century life.

Listen Live Now!

8AM to 10AM Weekend Edition

Weekend Edition

Weekend Edition Sunday premiered on January 18, 1987, and was the last of NPR's major newsmagazines to hit air. Since then, Weekend Edition Sunday has covered newsmakers and artists, scientists and politicans, music makers of all kinds, writers, thinkers, theologians and all manner of news events.

View the program guide!

9AM to 10PM Sound Opinions

Sound Opinions

Take two nationally respected rock critics, the latest music news, personal commentary, and exclusive interviews and performances, add a huge pile of records old and new, and the result is Sound Opinions-the world's only rock and roll talk show.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center