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Attacks on Sufi Mystics Warn of Wider Islamist Carnage

7:29 AM, Jan 31, 2013 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
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To the majority of traditional Muslims, Sufis are known for their good works, care for the disadvantaged, and defense of the oppressed. On January 24, Albanian media reported a belated recognition as “A Patriotic Martyr” of Sali Niyaz Dede, a leader of the Bektashi Sufis who was executed in 1941 by the fascist Italians for refusing to recognize Mussolini’s occupying army as the masters of Albania. At the same time, Albanian authorities honored the Bektashi poet Baba Ali Tomorri and his colleague Baba Shefket Koshtani, assassinated by the Communists after World War II. The Bektashi Sufis are distinguished in their support for secular government, popular education, and gender equality.

In representing an Islamic alternative to fundamentalism, radicalism, and state tyranny, it is predictable that Sufis would targets of jihadists. Unfortunately the image of the Sufis as otherworldly individuals involved exclusively in escape from the bonds of ordinary existence persists among non-Muslims, including those concerned to counter radical ideology. Global policy makers remain reluctant to favor differing Islamic interpretations, on the pretext of non-interference with religion.

But one thing seems certain: Where the Sufis are victimized, ordinary Muslims and non-Muslims will soon come under attack. Confrontations between Sufis and their enemies are not a minor detail of Islamic life. The atrocities against Sufis in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Mali, and other countries should be recognized by foreign observers as reliable warning signs of approaching homicidal jihadism against foreigners, modernists, and moderate Muslims.

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