Sufi Islam—more mystical, more concerned with God’s love than God’s law, and much more tolerant toward other faiths and other varieties of Islam—has been on the retreat in much of the Islamic world. Saudi-funded Wahabi preachers and Islamist activists have put Sufism on the defensive and in some cases (as in Mali) have attacked and destroyed Sufi shrines.But in places like Somalia, Sufism is apparently making a comeback:
Al-Shabab, a group of al-Qaida-linked militants that seeks to instill an ultra-conservative brand of Islam across Somalia, controlled Mogadishu from roughly 2007 to 2011. The group still dominates most of south-central Somalia but has seen its territory reduced after military pushes by African Union and Somali forces.The Sufis in the capital now feel free to practice their faith. In central Somalia, after the graves of sheiks were desecrated and killings occurred, Sufis used weapons to kick militants out of some key towns. The conflict in that part of the Horn of Africa nation persists.
An outlier case? Maybe for now. But the pattern could repeat itself.The currents of Islamism now sweeping so many countries have one thing in common: they lack the economic smarts and the political vision that can actually solve the problems of the people in places like Egypt, Syria and Tunisia. Just as Arab socialism once swept the region but then lost luster as its remedies failed to work, so the outlook for today’s Islamists is also dim. Morsi’s struggles in Egypt illustrate the point. And even where Islamists continue to hold on to power, the movements will become complacent, corrupt and hypocritical.When and as Islamism loses its shine, Sufism may well make a comeback. That could be a very good thing.[Whirling dervishes in Turkey, from the Wikimedia Commons]