If it seems rather confusing in the Middle East, it is.
Magister helps a bit.
On Benedict XVI’s calandar for May 4 is an audience with Mohammad Khatami, president of Iran from 1997 to 2005. Khatami is generally classified among the “moderate” proponents of Shiite Islam.
He will take part in in a conference in Rome, which will be held at the Pontifical Gregorian University on the theme: “Intercultural dialogue, a challenge for peace.” The political model to which he adheres is, however, the one established by the religious revolution of Khomeini, who is certainly not a “moderate.”
In Shiite Islam, the revolutionary currents of the Khomeini stamp – in Iran, in Iraq, and in Lebanon with Hezbollah – are mainly opposed by the “quietist” tendency that takes its inspiration from the highest authority over the Iraqi holy places in Najaf and Kerbala, the grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, according to whom political power should be exercised, not by religious leaders, but by democratically elected laypeople.
So Ali Sistani, the Iraqi Shiite ayatollah, is a fellow who favors democracy. But that's not the case in Iran, nor is it the case with ALL of the Shiites in Iraq.
Not to worry. It's more complicated:
In Iraq, the conflict between the two tendencies is not only theoretical, but also political and military. And it culminates in the deepest, most incurable conflict that for centuries has divided the entire Muslim world between Shiites and Sunnis.
Moreover, there is war even in the Sunni camp. Almost all of the latest suicide attacks undertaken by Al Qaeda and by related terrorist groups have struck Muslim countries, and made Muslim victims.
So the Shiites aren't copacetic with the Sunnis, and aren't all that copacetic with all the other Shiites, but there are 2 factions of Sunni, too.
In the Islamic world, the family name (nisba) is generally formed beginning with the place of origin of the tribe or religious group to which the family belongs. In the case of Nashqbandi, the origin is in Nashqbandiya, one of the most important religious confraternities of central Asia, founded by Mohammed Barahuddin Nashqbandi (1318-1389), which has its spiritual center in the city of Bukhara, but is spread all over Asia, all the way to the Caucasus.
Its followers profess a Sufi, and therefore mystical, form of Islam, sometimes referred to as esoteric or parallel, a peaceful and tolerant Islam, in complete antithesis to the Islam professed and imposed by the Taliban. The Taliban has produced a subversive form of Wahhabism, which in my view does not fall within the definition of “Islamic fascism,” but rather embodies a third generation form of totalitarianism.
...The Taliban is the product of the contemporary fracture between an absolutist Islam and an open Islam. They have found in Arab Wahhabism of the Qur’anic school of Deoband, founded in New Delhi at the end of the 1800’s, their ideological point of departure. They then made this the ideology of the Pashtun, over 12 million persons divided between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Why were the Pashtun, and not another tribe, made the bearers of Wahhabism in that area? Because they are the only tribe in that place that boasts an Arab genealogy: Wazir, one of their ancestors who gives the name to the Pakistani province of Waziristan, was from the Arabian peninsula.
One more thing: the real battle is NOT in Iraq:
The battle taking place in Afghanistan is, therefore, a battle of meaning, and the fate of much of the Muslim world depends on its outcome.
So we don't really like the Pashtun/Waziris.
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It's important to remember that before Khomeini radicalized things, Shi'ites were unconcerned with the government. Sure, the average citizen was dealing with the likes of the Shah and Hussein in Iraq, but according to Shi'ism, the twelfth imam was gone and with him religious and political power in one person.
It's not hard to imagine why Khomeini tried to pass himself off as an imam, which in the Shi'ite sense granted him immense authority.
And then of course, you have the Iraqis who are Arabs and the Iranians who are Persians... Some Arabs hold to Khomeini's views and some to Sistani's... You're right, it is confusing.
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