Transnational Sufism and Islamic Change

Rifa'i Dervishes

Transnational Sufism and Islamic Change in Contemporary Sri Lanka

by Dennis B. McGilvray

In the context of spectacular Sinhalese and Tamil forms of religious austerity and mortifying vow-fulfillment — such as the hook-swinging, kavadi dancing, and firewalking so prominently displayed at Kataragama — the so-called “cutting and stabbing work” of the Bawas is the only comparably breathtaking and “miraculous” devotional tradition available on the Muslim side. In the years since I first encountered the Bawas, my awareness of the transnational nature of the Rifai performance tradition has gradually expanded to include a live demonstration of daggers, needles, and spikes performed by the followers of a Rifai’i sheikh in Calicut, northern Kerala, and an exhibit of identical stabbing implements in the National Museum in Jakarta. The capstone experience for me, however, was to see these very same Rifai’i implements wielded by Balkan Muslims in Skopje, Macedonia, in a documentary film many of you have probably seen: I am a Sufi, I am a Muslim (with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan singing qawwali songs in the closing minutes of the movie).

Wahhabis in Kurdish Iraq Wahhabism

Wahhabis in Kurdish Iraq

Wahhabism is so strong in the US because there’s very little shared memory of what traditional Islam should be. So we’re happy to hold hands with everybody in the interests of Muslim unity. But the article above shows how Wahhabism stands out in stark contrast to the lived Islam of the Kurdish community. Sadly, impoverished as they are, they have little way to resist the flood.

“Islam and Judaism and Christianity have flourished together in this region for more than 1,400 years,” said Mullah Mohammad Akrey, the most senior cleric in the group. “These Wahabis are not Muslims and do not represent Islam.”
“…the mullahs told me that their countrymen had accepted the Saudi mosques for a simple reason — they couldn’t afford to build their own. But Mullah Talat Mantiq bitterly pointed out that in the years before the establishment of the U.N. Oil for Food Program in 1996, when people in the region were starving, the Saudis were building mosques — but were not, however, donating food, clothing or medicine.” Money with big strings attached. Similar is what happened in Bosnia, where centuries-old masjids built by the Ottomans, damaged by the war, were demolished and rebuilt as white-walled pillboxes. – A call for – A call for jihad — special reports from the Pittsburgh Trib

The Pittsburgh Tribune published more than a half-dozen articles on jihadi activity in the Pittsburgh area. Each one is enough to be deeply troubling on its own. Read together, they are damning. I won’t quote from the pieces at length, but one article deserves special mention because it is about a group so close to my heart er, house: the Packard Street Lions of Islaaam, the Pittsfield Township Titans of Jihad, the Islamic Assembly of North America (

A militant religious message is spread worldwide from this city outside Detroit by a group of Islamists with connections to Pittsburgh.

and God Knows Best.

Thx again to HN for the link