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Why Salafists see Shiites as their greatest enemy

Many Salafists see Shiites, not Jews and Israel, as the greatest threat to Islam.
An Islamist protester holds a Salafist flag with Arabic words that read "There is no God but Allah and Mohammad is his prophet" as Egyptian security forces stand guard during a protest against the French operation in Mali outside the French embassy in Cairo January 18, 2013. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh  (EGYPT - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) - RTR3CLWR

Helping Shiite groups in their military operations against Israel or the United States has always been a source of discord among Salafists. Radical Salafists consider both Shiites and Jews the enemies of Islam. But anti-Shiite enmity is often stronger than that against Jews among Salafists, who consider the Shiites a fifth column and thus see "damage" by Shiites as more serious than that caused by others.

In the latest chapter of this contentious relationship, a number of Salafist clerics praised the deaths of Shiite leaders in an Israeli airstrike on the Syrian Golan Heights on Jan. 18. Among the most prominent of these Salafist clerics is Mohammed al-Barrak, a professor at Umm al-Qura and a member of the Muslim Scholars Association in Saudi Arabia. He tweeted: “When the [Shiites] die at the hands of the Jews we thank God that he answered our prayers,” and “The damage inflicted by the [Shiites] on the Muslims is more than that inflicted by the Jews.” He also criticized Hamas for issuing a statement of condolence to the leadership of Hezbollah after the event. Barrak said that the statement “shows a theological deficiency within [Hamas], which is not fighting the Jews according to doctrine.” He asked Hamas’ leaders not to be courteous at the expense of doctrine and the community, adding, “No matter what the [Shiites] gave to Hamas, it does not justify appeasing them or supporting them.”

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