18 June 2013

Divided by Ancient Disputes: Sunnis, Shi‘ites & the Future of the Middle East

Americans wonder what is going on in the Middle East these days, especially the civil and religious strife that is tearing Syria apart – and, potentially, Lebanon and Iraq along with it. Modern Christians, even Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, have little appetite for going to battle over religious differences. Within the House of Islam, however, ancient antagonisms between Sunni and Shi‘ite Muslims are alive and well; indeed, they are currently devastating the heartland of the religion. What is the source of the division between Sunnis and Shi‘ites, and how prevalent is this bifurcation in the whole Islamic world, a community of more than 1.6 billion people?