Saturday, August 11, 2012

Nazareth's Sufis bullied by fellow Muslims

From SufiNews, originally published in Haaretz profiling an alarming trend of violence and intimidation directed towards the mystic branch of Islam. The threats started a decade ago, after 10 Nazareth Sufis reached out to other Muslims, and began pursuing interfaith relationships with the Jewish community.

For decades, the mystical Sufis in Nazareth have celebrated Islam through music and poetry without considering themselves in danger. But nowadays, local Salafis, who practice a more conservative and coercive Islam, bully and beat Sufi leaders to deter them from their practices, Muslim community leaders told Haaretz. "We visit tombs of holy peoples and they say it is forbidden; we chant and they say it is forbidden to use instruments; I say there should be dialogue with Israelis and Jews because the prophet Muhammed received delegations of Jewish tribes," but Salafis object, said Nazareth Sheikh Ghassan Menasra, 44, a leader of the Qadiri Sufi Order of the Holy Land.

Menasra says he and two of his five sons have been beaten in Nazareth and Jerusalem and his wife, an Islamic educator for women, was pushed. Shaken by threats and having tear gas thrown into his home, he spent two weeks in meditation to avoid the fate of Jerusalem Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari, who suffered similar attacks and died of a heart attack in 2010 at age 61.

Such incidents may reflect a growing regional trend of clashes between progressive Muslims and their more fundamentalist brethren. Egyptian Salafis have razed Sufi shrines, Tunisian Salafis injured dozens in riots over work of art and political analysts blame Salafi Jihadis for the bloodshed in Syria

Sheikh Ghassan Menasra believes facilitating interfaith relationships is an important part of Islam, to the benefit of all. "Muslims can also teach Jews the cultural codes of peacemaking in Islam – politics alone cannot build trust." Quoting Rabia al-Adawiya, a female Sufi saint, he describes the three kinds of religious people. There are "Slaves who worship through fear, merchants who worship for profit and free people who worship through love – this is the way," he said. "The radicals think that they need to stop us in any way, but we will not stop."

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