Fitna (Schism) Sleeps--Is this the Future of the Arab World?

Steven LeBlanc

There is a saying in the Arab world: “Fitna sleeps; Allah’s curse upon him who wakens it”—This is a reference to the 1400 year old great fitna (schism) between Islam’s main religious branches (Sunnis & Shia), given to fighting and conflict. It certainly looks like the Sunnis/Shia divide has again awakened from its sleep. In Syria the Sunnis/Shia religious war shakes the whole of the Middle East.

In astounding speed decade-old dictatorships of Yemen, Libya, Egypt and Tunisia fell. Public spending increased in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain and the UAE, all in hopes of appeasing the local populations so they too would not go the way of Egypt or Libya.

The Arab Spring is now over 2 years old but the Revolution of 2011 has not given the people what they want; an end to government corruption, jobs or hope that things will get better soon. Pessimism in the Middle East, and tempers are once again on the rise.

The Arab world is composed of about 355 million people living in 19 Arab states, ruled by a mix of Monarchies and nascent republics. The fear in the region is that Islamist parties in the various Arab states will look to democratic elections—using the process of elections to gain power, but once in power, will take control of the nation never again to allow true democracy to take root. This scheme is called: “One Man, One Vote, One Time”. The other fear is that after losing power in Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood and other religious factions across the Middle East, will resort to street fights to gain power.

Continual conflict and disagreement is the way of many in the Arab world—it has been that way for centuries. Syria’s brawl has spread across its borders with over 2 million of its people fleeing into neighboring Iraq, Turkey and Jordan. Shia/Sunnis tensions buttress the divisions in the Arab world. Further unrest and bloodshed is a certainty. Israel watches the chaos and worries when the Arab anger and frustration will be directed their way.

The Arab people are known for their hospitality, yet their tribal personality so often leads to fighting and conflict…the prophecy of Genesis 16 continues its echo: “You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard your misery, He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers”.—verses 11-12. The Arab people are descendants of Ishmael—God’s description tells the story of the Middle East.

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