The Saudis deliberately fuel religious quarrels in Africa
I’ve decided to focus on a particular issue which has not been discussed enough yet: the Shia population in Africa.
Most people may have heard reports, especially from Saudi Arabia, on Iranian influence in Algeria. Many reports claim that Saudi Arabia was behind the army’s brutal actions during the Algerian crackdown, because the Saudis are afraid of Iranian influence in Algeria and Africa. The activity of Shia population in Africa is not in their interests. However, while the Saudis and Western media claim that Shia Muslims in Africa are influenced by Iran, history in fact shows that Shia Muslims appeared in Africa long before the formation of the Islamic Republic of Iran. I will try to present Shia Islam on the African continent from a historical perspective.
I recently visited North Africa where I personally witnessed that the majority of Sunni Muslims share the sympathy of Shia Muslims. I think that years of peaceful life in this region are the result of these relations. However, the increasing activity of Wahhabism in Africa led to some tensions. I could see that, in countries like Algeria, Muslims have become disaffected towards Wahhabi and Salafi extremism. Algeria is one of the rare countries in North Africa which is still stable and safe from terrorism.
Most Africans converted to Islam after the introduction of Shia Islam onto the continent. Shia governments came to power in North Africa and strengthened their position in other parts of the continent. The first formation of a Shia government in North Africa can be traced back to the year 788. The second Shia power to appear was connected to the formation of the Fatimid Islamic Caliphate in North Africa in 909. This dynasty ruled across the Mediterranean coast of Africa and made Egypt as the center of caliphate. It also included the areas of today’s Morocco, Sudan, and even Sicily in Europe. Their reign lasted until 1171.
Many extremists, such as Wahhabis and Salafists, who are supported by Saudi Arabia, are trying to claim that the Shia population in Africa is a new phenomenon. However, the existence of the Shia caliphate in the region and the way that people respect Shiites proves the historical presence of Shias in the region.
Eastern Africa also witnessed the appearance of Shia Muslims. At first, they appeared in Somalia and Kenya because of their friendly behavior. They mixed with the native Africans rapidly. This mixture provided for the expansion of the Shia population in East Africa and later in Central and South Africa.
I want to discuss an important question. Now, we are witnessing a brutal form of civil wars in the Middle East. I would like warn of the possibility of similar unrests in Africa. Certain countries outside Africa, like Saudi Arabia, are intentionally fueling religious wars and radicalism in Africa. They are trying to embroil Shiites and Sunnis and Muslims and Christians in conflict.
To prevent religious and racial wars, we need to understand their origin. Terrorist groups like ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabaab, and Boko Haram adhere to certain religious Ideologies. They are all inspired by the ideology of Wahhabism which was created in the 18th century in Arabia and is still supported by Saudi Arabia. To understand the ideological aspect of the current wars, we should investigate Wahhabism.