Shi’a Muslims: halal meat?

Recently, those who have been following the news may have noticed an increase of terrorist attacks and the general persecution of Shi’a Muslims, particularly within Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and recently Palestine together with less reported, but still significant, events in Indonesia and Malaysia, among other Sunni majority countries. In the case of Pakistan, 3,700 civilians, mostly Shi’as, have been killed and another 7,700 wounded in sectarian violence since 1989. In Afghanistan, Bahrain, and Iraq, several thousand Shi’as have been ruthlessly murdered in sectarian violence (see South Asia Terrorism Portal). There is no doubt that, in the last decade alone, Shi’a civilians have been massacred within Sunni majority countries. Hence it is legitimate to ask whether Shi’a Muslims may have become, in a sense, ‘halal meat’.The historical reasons for the split between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims and their differences are well known. Surely many scholars have highlighted that the reasons for Muslim sectarian conflicts should be understood in terms of regional social political realities, so it would be simplistic to suggest that the massacre of Shi’a Muslims in Pakistan can be directly related to the killing in Iraq. Yet we have also to acknowledge that the ‘halal meat’ status of Shi’a Muslims increased after 2001 due to the war on terror and the destabilization of relevant regions such as Iraq.

Although we can easily provide a social political analysis of the main factors for which Sunni countries discriminate against Shi’a minorities (in the case of Iraq, former subordinated majority), we have also to acknowledge the existence of a certain ideology, widely spread among Sunni Muslims, which dehumanizes Shi’a Muslims. In the best of cases, Shi’a Muslims are tolerated and in the worst they are threatened and killed. This does not mean that there is noShi’a terrorist movement. Yet none reaches the level of aggression towards civilians seen in the case of the Sunni.

The death toll and the atrocity of the actions against Shi’a Muslims (often pilgrims and devotees visiting holy places) is shocking and difficult to make sense of. Yet even that level of violence does not shock me as much as the majority of Muslims’ silence, which I can only precisely label through a particular, politically charged, Italian word: “menefreghismo” (which, although not perfectly, translates as “an uncaring or couldn’t-care-less attitude” or even better, “I don’t care-ism”).

If a considerable number of Sunni Muslims are conducting jihad (all rather violent) against Shi’a Muslims, by the tongue, by the hand, and in particular, as the numbers show above, by the sword, the great majority of Muslims in the world are conducting another jihad, one that is not mentioned in any Islamic tradition or scholarly interpretation, but still one of the most used: the menefregista jihad, expressed by not expressing. It is characterized by a vile silence of unprecedented proportions.

You need only to compare this to the worldwide reactions of millions, both in real lives and in virtual ones, to cases such as the Sudanese teddy bear blasphemy case, the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy  or the Minaret controversy in Switzerland. All these events cost lives or created disruption. Yet today the fact that Shi’a Muslims are turned into ‘halal meat’ apparently does not deserve burned flags, screams and passionate protests. If they are lucky, the Shi’a have among Sunni Muslims few and, inevitably, feeble voices of support.

Although there are several political and historical reasons for the carnage, we cannot avoid noting the target of shrines, places of worship, mosques and so forth. The target has a clear symbolic value (and indeed even al-Qaeda attacked the Twin Towers, not the Vatican). There is one element that many scholars discussing the sectarian violence affecting Shi’a Muslims tend to underestimate and avoid discussing: tolerance.

We can clearly state that within Muslim communities in various places, a particular process is taking place. This process is vocally opposed by a certain number of Muslims, but not by a comparable number that, for instance, opposed the above mentioned controversies. This process is what I call a globalization of intolerance;  something which is surely new in the history of Muslim communities around the world.

8 thoughts on “Shi’a Muslims: halal meat?

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  1. Shi’a Islam is not the terrorizing Sunni Islam. proof of Shi’a Islam helped Israel in the occupied Palestinian land.
    damn news…
    so which is correct???

  2. Anti Shia sentiment has always been a part of Sunni thinking. But the present situation is so dangerous. The attacks by Shias on Sunnis in Pakistan have been very rare. It is a bit ironical that the ideology of political Islam was first used by Shias in Iran and it is Shias who are now facing the brunt.

  3. Dear Dr. Marranci

    I am happy to know that I have the opportunity to hear your inspiring response, and I guess I should thank you for your warm welcome for me to read and comment on your blog.

    As I can see from the picture that represent your comment, I notes that I’m so much younger, inexperienced, and far from expert as you are, please mind my chit-chat cause I’m really enjoying it.

    I could not be ashamed enough to reread your post and my comment, because I shouldn’t be, hence I have to illumine my point of a poor elaboration and did made some trace of bias. But it did came with some reasons.

    You were right, the dammaj fight should be elaborated towards the quantity and the outrage of fatalities that shi’ah did throughout the history of Islam.

    but surely,
    the impression of my rational, about shi’as in most of the condition are rightly killed, will be wrong and not reasonable.
    Thats why I said
    ‘I do oppose such an ideology’
    consequently these certain ideology that you mentioned and claimed for being spread among Sunni muslims are not representing the truth within Islam and at least within the sunni muslim.

    Jihad is a relevant question, because I must add on what you might’ve wanted to say in this post, that this so called jihad of massacre without the proper reasons and conditions are not jihad within Islam.
    Hence I thank you for the link to your book. And looking forward to read it. Honestly it is my failure to understand, yet, about menefregista jihad that you’ve mentioned.

    about the shiitenews I am still can not be assured how this reference be worth enough, even though came from amnesty international, it is already accusing with the word salafist and wahhabis while the real culprits cannot be generalized by both words and let alone the deep topic for both terms themselves should be considered. (how about the data in Iran, Lebanon, and few other shi’a majority countries?)
    Also I would love to know how Israeli point of view about the conflict in Palestine, because so far, it was just as bad as it looks like.

    Apparently I also do not assume that one theological stance is far more superior to any other, I believe in it. Thereupon derivatives of what jihad is, are manifest in devotion to both parents, preaches, literature of the scholars, writings, seeking knowledge and others whom satisfy it. So in this one, I couldn’t be more disagree on anthropological analysis for cultural expressions as you mentioned. The beautiful and righteous aqidah will never approve such killings. This topic of your post does likely occur from severe aqidah.

    eventually yes,
    I am impudently tried to not being justifiable by any civilized standard, my apologies.
    Truly it was supposed to become a comment of my view, in addition for your post. Hoping that you might will refer it to your other articles about shi’a and sunni.

    if these statistics data were truly true about what happened in the last 20 years, then taking other people’s life with unholy circumstances is fully arrant and solely unacceptable.


  4. i am new to your blog sir and a little bit interested

    “the existence of a certain ideology, widely spread among Sunni Muslims, which dehumanizes Shi’a Muslims.”
    i do oppose such an ideology, but you might find in a condition of some cases such as Dammaj, the latter people in your sentence that i quote will declare the very same ideology to the former one,

    “the menefregista jihad, expressed by not expressing. It is characterized by a vile silence of unprecedented proportions.”
    why don’t you also refer to the real definition for Jihad in Islam?

    what about shi’ah and sunni on their aqidah? and i do question your source about what happened in Indonesia, its a,

    at a glance, i can say that you are able to find more complete facts, literature and studies before making an impression of unjust value within the shi’a n sunni

    1. Dear Sir,

      thank you for reading my blog and for your kind comment. I will try to answer your points (but I see that you have your bias so I am not sure how much my effort may be useful)

      About your point of the Dammaj fight this was a battle between Salafists and a particular Shi’a group. I do not see how this can compare with the statistics I have provided and that maybe you wish to check again. I am speaking of thousands of children, women and innocent civilians killed. I cannot make sense of your rationale that they are rightly killed because some Shi’a groups are involved in terrorist actions as well (something I mentioned if you read the post carefully).

      You ask me why I do not refer to the definition for Jihad in Islam: first of all it has no relevance in this context, secondly I have written an entire book on it.

      About aqidah, I do not deal with theology and I never assume, as an anthropologist, that one theological stance is superior to another. Indeed, for an anthropological analysis, the aqidah of one group or another are cultural expressions. Hence the question in this case is irrelevant. Also I do not understand why you mention it; does a different aqidah allow other Muslims to transform Shi’a Muslims into “halal meat”? I am sure you may wish to clarify this point.

      About the fact that the link to the case of Indonesia was from a Shi’a blog, it was an experiment, since I wished to see whom would have pointed to that. You indeed did. I am sure that if the post was about the Palestinian and Israeli conflict and I would have used a link to a Palestinian News website, you would have not complained about bias, would you? Is that not exactly an extreme example of what bias is?

      Anyway, you can google yourself and you will see the that Shi’a News website I linked is reporting news from Amnesty International

      Finally, I do not see how you can state with your above points that I am able

      to find more complete facts, literature and studies before making an impression of unjust value within the shi’a n sunni.

      I instead suggest that you reconsider deeply your feelings towards other human beings, as Shi’a indeed are, instead of trying to justify something that, I am afraid, it is not justifiable by any civilised standard.

      Best wishes

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