Foreign Policy Blogs

Shiism: A Radical Threat?

The most interesting article I’ve come across recently concerns Morocco and the spread of Islamic radicalism. Although articles are being published practically every second on “Islamic radicals,” Steven Erlanger’s and Souad Mekhennet’s piece in the New York Times  alerts readers to an element of the spread of radicalism that is often overlooked by foreign policy analysts. In the article, “Islamic Radicalism Slows Moroccan Reforms,” an interview with Yassine Mansouri – the Chief of intelligence of Morocco – shows that there is a fear not just of Wahhabism from Saudi Arabia but also the spread of shiism from Iran.

This raises a lot of questions about whether in fact Iran is still on a course of spreading their religious views and political values or whether it is merely person-to-person contact which has led to increasing shi’a appeal (or whether there is no trend whatsoever.) The intelligence chief was quoted as saying, “we consider them both aggressive.” It would be interesting to have a better comparison of these two forms of radicalism and the actual extent to which they are aggressive. References to such Shi’a radicalism may only serve political purposes nowadays rather than be an actual security threat.

Nevertheless, Erlanger and Mekhennet point out that the King of Morocco did in fact cut diplomatic ties to Iran on accusations of interference and attempts to spread shiism. According to an Al Jazeera report, The Iranians were apparently surprised by the Moroccan decision to cut ties, particularly because Morocco does not have an official Shi’a minority. There was, therefore, little risk that Iran could in any serious way be meddling in shi’a/sunni relations.



Karin Esposito

Karin Esposito is blogging on religion and politics from her base in Central Asia. Currently, she is the Project Manager for the Tajikistan Dialogue Project in Dushanbe. The Project is run through the Geneva Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies with the support of PDIV of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. The aim of the project is to establish practical mechanisms for co-existence and peaceful conflict resolution between Islamic and secular representatives in Tajikistan. After receiving a Juris Doctorate from Boston University School of Law in 2007, she worked in Tajikistan for the Bureau of Human Rights and later as a Visting Professor of Politics and Law at the Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics, and Strategic Research (KIMEP). Ms. Esposito also holds a Master's in Contemporary Iranian Politics (2007) from the School of International Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Iran and a Master's in International Relations (2003) from the Geneva Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (GIIDS) in Switzerland.

Areas of Focus:
Islam; Christianity; Secularism;


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