Foreign Policy magazine has published a thought provoking and brilliant analysis of the Saudization of anti-Shi’ism which details how sectarian discourse has shifted to doctrinal sectarianism, which is far more divisive and exclusionary than its older, ethnic/national variant. What I find particularly terrifying about this shift is that it has the effect of depoliticizing [while militarizing] identity-driven conflicts and essentializing them so that they become seemingly irreconcilable. Nasrallah referred to this shift in his last speech when he said ” At first, they didn’t refer to it as “Shia” [threat]. Today I want to call things by their name; they didn’t say Shia, they used to say the Iranians or the Majoos or the Persians, were attacking the eastern gate of the Arab umma…. They made a new enemy and then realized that their language which used the words Persian and Majoos etc. didn’t serve their project. So they gave their invented enemy another name: the Shia expansion.”
The full article penned by Fanar Haddad, is here . Excerpts below:
"The overthrow of Saddam Hussein changed all that. Since 2003, ajam, a term that was ubiquitous in what was regarded as anti-Shiite sentiment in Iraq and beyond, has all but disappeared from public usage. In its place has emerged a style of anti-Shiism that was largely the preserve of clerical circles of the Saudi Arabian variant. This is a discourse of exclusion primarily based on religious otherness that is embodied by the word rafidha. This new form of sectarian animosity frames the Shiites as suspect not because of the allegedly ambiguous national loyalties of some nor because of the so-called “ethnic impurity” of others but because of the beliefs that define the sect as a whole.
There is a qualitative difference between stigmatizing the Shiites as ajam and stigmatizing them asrafidha. Its potential repercussions on stability and social cohesion explain why authoritarian regimes in Iraq and elsewhere employed the former and repressed the latter. Multi-sectarian states like Iraq need a convincing veneer of inclusivity to survive. Iraq can afford to treat its miniscule Baha’i community the way Saudi Arabia treats its religious minorities, but its internal stability is hardly served by the explicit, unabashed, and ideological exclusion of culturally or demographically competitive sections of the population such as the Sunnis or Shiites. In dealing with Shiite opposition, ajam was a far more useful tool than rafidha for successive Iraqi regimes, as it allowed for selective exclusion: the state line throughout the 20th century was that some Shiites may beajam but that does not detract from “our brothers” the “noble Arab Shiite tribes.” This starkly contrasts with exclusion on the basis of doctrine which would place all Shiites beyond redemption until they renounce their beliefs and their adherence to Shiism.”