It happened in Balad, Iraq. Or Mazaari or Yethrib or Saud. Truly it happened in a remote village north of Baghdad. Late Thursday or earlier on Thursday a man drove a car or a minivan or a minibus laden with explosives into a gathering of Sufi Muslims belonging to the Kasnazani or Rifai order. Or else he strapped a belt of explosives onto himself and walked into the gathering of Sufis. It was a headquarters, a house, a mosque, monastery, or simply a "place of worship." ( Witnesses used the term tekiya or takia). The explosives detonated, injuring many people. Nine or ten people died.
Nobody has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but fingers have been pointed at the usual suspects. Juan Cole, an expert on such matters by trade, attributes the attack to Salifis expressing outrage at the order's betrayal of the guerrilla movement. Edward Wong of the New York Times also points to Salafis, though in the context of "sectarian violence" rather than a "guerrilla movement." He writes, "adherents of the conservative Salafiya sect, another branch of Sunni Islam, have killed Sufis for centuries and desecrated their tombs, denouncing them as infidels. Prominent Salafi fighters include Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant, and Osama bin Laden." Sam Knight writing for a different Times explains that "Sufi mystics are a target of Islamic extremists, who dispute their interpretation of the Koran." Andy Mosher and Salih Saif Aldin of the Washington Post tie together themes of sectarian violence and the insurgency®: "Although Iraq's Sufis generally consider themselves part of Sunni Islam, they practice a mystical form of Islam that is distinct from the Sunni mainstream and is rejected by the more austere, hard-line Sunnis who form the core of the insurgency in Iraq." Ashraf Khalil, writing for the Los Angeles Times, cites unnamed Sufi adherents who claim that the attack "was an inevitable extension of standing suspicion toward Sufism from Sunni extremists whose ideas have permeated the insurgency." Khalil adds that "Sufis tend to be viewed with a certain bemused suspicion by mainstream Muslims in Iraq and elsewhere, particularly in recent years as Wahhabism, a fundamentalist Islamic doctrine, has spread from the Gulf states. Sufism is banned in Saudi Arabia but is officially recognized and respected in most other states." Khalil interveiwed a Sufi Sheikh in Baghdad who pointed a finger squarely at Al Qaeda. But further into the story Khalil writes that the Sheikh "and others blamed the attacks on takfiriyeen — a catch-all term for Sunni fundamentalists who declare Sufis, Shiites and any other variant on what they consider 'pure' Islam, to be kafir, or apostates."
One thing I have learned from all these stories is that nobody suspects that terrorists carried out the attack which killed at least nine defenseless people and injured many more. That's rather curious because a lot of people are pointing fingers at members of Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda organization. If bin Laden's followers can't be accurately described as terrorists--a catch-all term for those who deliberately carry out violent attacks against defenseless people--then nobody can be fairly or accurately described as a terrorist. Now that is an interesting development.