Armed Guards For Xmas Events In Muslim Majority Countries

Sufism, in the romanticised Western psyche, is often presented as Islam’s peaceful minority sect that screams for a voice.

A Mawlid procession in Morocco.

A Mawlid procession in Morocco.

It is the Islam that MTV presenter Kristiane Backer turned to after years in showbiz, and the Islam that Britain’s Prince Charles has for long shown an active interest in.

On the other hand, we have the dark spectre of Wahhabism [Salafism], which has supposedly come to dominate the Muslim world, funded by petro-dollars and promoted by crazy clerics.

Neither portrayal is entirely true. While Salafism has grown due to Saudi state sponsorship, the Muslim world remains a diverse patchwork of religious understandings of all shades – regardless of what Saudi Arabia wants or likes.

Mawlid al Nabi ceremonies in South Sudan

Mawlid al Nabi ceremonies in South Sudan

Furthermore, the fact that Mawlid celebrations will take place in almost every Muslim country dispels the myth that Sufism is a minority strand of Islam. This does not mean that most Muslims are Sufis, but that Sufism deeply permeates Muslim practice and societies.

And why does this matter? Because Sufism is often presented in the West – when it is given coverage – as the ‘peaceful’ Islamic alternative, practiced only by a harmless few.

Here, it must be remembered that Sufi Muslim mystics have historically never shyed away from violence, most notably in Algeria, Chechnya and Libya, where staunch adherents of this spiritual path led armed anti-colonial rebellions.

Today, Sufi Muslims will certainly lead Mawlid celebrations around the world and elsewhere preach internal reflection and mysticism.

But it is also Sufi-dominated organisations, like the al-Azhar University in Egypt, that are used to push government lines and crush popular dissent.

This shows just how integral and influential Sufism is in the modern Muslim world, but also how it must not be over-simplified by labels.

Source :

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