GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Saudi Sectarianism in Saudi-Iranian Relations
Paper Proposal Text :
In November 2013, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal said to Bloomberg News: “The Sunnis will love it [an Israeli strike on Iran]. The Sunni Muslim is very much anti-Shiite, and very much anti-, anti-, anti-Iran.” A prominent Saudi Islamic scholar, Sheikh ‘Abdarrahman al-Barak, called the Shiites “infidels” because they allegedly excommunicate (takfir) Muhammad’s Companions (as-sahabah). Although Sheikh Nasir al-‘Amr even claimed that the Iranian state was Zoroastrian and that it exploited Shiism, he made clear that his statement was not meant to defend Shiism which he regarded as “a great danger.” The Islamic scholar insisted that one had to deal with the Iranian government not from a political but from a shariah standpoint, just as Ibn Taymiyah (1263-1328) explained in his book “Shariah Politics” (as-siyasah ash-shar‘iyyah).
In order to tackle the much-discussed question of Saudi sectarianism in Saudi-Iranian relations, the present paper will address the following questions: Do the Saudi Arabian government, the Council of Senior Scholars (hay’at kibar al-‘ulama), the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (hay’at al-amr bil-ma‘ruf wan-nahi ‘an al-munkar) and other politically relevant groups or individuals in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia promote sectarianism when they refer to the government or the people of the Islamic Republic of Iran? Which statements or actions are politically and which are religiously motivated? What arguments do some Sunni Saudis produce in order to vilify the majority of Iranians because they are Shiites? Is the Islamic interpretation of “Wahhabism,” which is based on the teachings of Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab (1703-92) and which is the state religion of Saudi Arabia, prone to sectarianism? Or is it more accurate to say that there are more and less sectarian currents of Wahhabism? Is it, therefore, possible to diminish the conflict potential between Sunnis and Shiites by strengthening moderate currents of Wahhabism (wasatiyyah) and certain interpretations of Islam through educational institutions and the media?