Pan-Gulf identity as an alternative to Iran Vilayat-e Faqih

Pan-Gulf identity as an alternative to Iran Vilayat-e Faqih

Leaders (lr) of Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and the GCC Secretary General at the 41st GCC Summit in Al-Ula. (AFP)

The people of the Gulf urgently need a new political discourse. The previous pan-Arab discourse of the 1960s provided an intellectual framework for many people and elites. At the time, an individual’s identity, patriotism and sense of belonging were based on Arabism. It surpassed any other affiliation, such as religion, ethnicity, or sect. Although dominant, this political discourse had some flaws and faced different challenges as several conflicting ideologies emerged, including socialism, political Islam and Vilayat-e Faqih (tutelage of the Islamic jurist) on the eastern shore of the Persian Gulf, which will be the subject of this article.
Vilayat-e Faqih’s ideology interacted with Shia Arab communities and found fertile ground in four key stages. Each step was linked to political realities and circumstances, rather than to Iranian revolutionary ideology itself.
The first stage of this interaction took place during the first two years of the Iranian revolution and the subsequent establishment of the Islamic Republic, when the newly formed political system in Iran promoted the policy of “neither east nor of the West ”and anti-imperialist rhetoric. The Shia Arab communities accepted this speech, but it has not been fully tested.
The second stage took place during the Iran-Iraq War, when the Iranian regime began to export the Iranian revolution, calling on Arabs in the region to dismantle their political systems and replicate the Iranian experience. This attempt focused more on the revolutionary dimension than on the sectarian dimension. Therefore, he did not achieve the expected result.
The third stage, which was the engagement and containment stage, began after the liberation of Kuwait and ended with the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. This stage saw effective promotion of Vilayat-e Faqih among the Shiite Arab communities with a main emphasis on the sectarian dimension. Iran’s efforts during this period included an increase in the admission of Shia Arab students to Iranian religious seminaries (hawzas), the domination of sectarianism over nationalism, and the establishment of cross-border sectarian affiliations. In response to the failure of pan-Arabism and the emergence of divisions among Arab countries, Shiite Arab communities began to adopt the ideology of Vilayat-e Faqih.
The fourth and final step began when Iran adopted the discourse of protecting Shiite Arab communities from the US invasion of Iraq until today. The manifestations of this speech were evident when Iran intervened in Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria.
Even though freedom and political participation have been neglected in the Iranian ideology of Vilayat-e Faqih, the country’s political system has repeatedly held cosmetic presidential and parliamentary elections and promoted alleged economic achievements to export its revolutionary ideology. among the Shiite Arab communities. Vilayat-e Faqih completely revokes the right of individuals to participate in decision-making, marginalizes the authority of elected institutions and elevates the powers of the supreme leader.
According to this ideology, the supreme leader enjoys absolute guardianship over all the peoples, tribes and countries of the Islamic Ummah. He can restrict his tutelage to the country where he is vested with power so as not to be accused of interfering in the internal affairs of other countries on the basis of today’s world standards. However, in the event that the Supreme Leader exercises his powers extended beyond the borders of his country, his leadership based on loyalty will be binding, just like that which he imposes on the people of his own country.
The pan-Gulf discourse, on the other hand, did not, in my opinion, come from any intellectual or cultural reason. On the contrary, the occupation of Kuwait and its subsequent liberation was the key factor that led to the development of this discourse. Subsequently, it was reinforced by economic integration projects and laws regulating the movement of people between the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), as well as the freedom of investment and the transfer of capital between countries. members of the GCC.
The general secretariat of the GCC adopted the pan-Gulf speech. In September 2016, he organized a seminar in cooperation with the National Council of Culture, Arts and Literature of Kuwait on the theme “Strengthening the National Identity of the Gulf”. The seminar resulted in a series of recommendations, which were then submitted for consideration to the relevant committees of the ministries of culture of the GCC countries. These recommendations included strengthening Gulf unity through educational programs, increasing opportunities for young people, supporting media institutions to produce joint outreach projects and programs, funding / encouragement of centers. research and preservation of state and public heritage by participating in heritage-related events, as well as by supporting initiatives. which aim to raise the level of nationalism, strengthen national identity and consolidate the unity of the Gulf.
However, can this pan-Gulf discourse counter the ideology of Vilayat-e Faqih, which is promoted among Shiite Arab communities in the Gulf region?
To answer this question, we need to examine the main elements of this pan-Gulf discourse and the opportunities it offers Arab Shiites to integrate into Gulf societies. This discourse denies sectarian disagreements / differences, rejects discrimination and takfiri ideologies and criminalizes those who promote such ideologies. In addition, it recognizes the full participation of Arab Shiites in Gulf societies.
This discourse also imposes obligations on every citizen, including the rejection of cross-border affiliations and foreign loyalties, whether sectarian, intellectual or cultural. It also considers these affiliations to be socially unacceptable and prioritizes loyalty to national authorities and elected institutions.

This discourse rejects discrimination and takfiri ideologies and criminalizes those who promote such ideologies.

Dr Mohammed Al-Sulami

Advancing the discourse on pan-Gulf identity will consolidate the sense of belonging to a single entity, accelerate the transition from the GCC, which is currently celebrating its 40th anniversary, to the Gulf Union, which may later include the ‘Iraq and Yemen, and will help overcome tribal, sectarian, regional and class affiliations. This discourse can also contribute to the adoption of more harmonious educational and cultural programs and common political orientations. More importantly, this speech will help to bridge the intellectual and societal gaps in the face of external challenges and to preserve the social fabric of the Gulf from expansionist and hegemonic ambitions aimed at our countries.

  • Dr Mohammed Al-Sulami is President of the International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah). Twitter: @mohalsulami

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the editors in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arab News


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