GetReligionBlog, which is by a professional journalist who covers the press and it’s problems with religious coverage, has had an ongoing series about the failure of the press to cover the Sunni Shiite divide in Isalm.

The question has not been discussed very much in the stories about the war on terror even though the religious divide has a lot to do with the present day instability in Iraq.

Indeed, when Jeff Stein asked American officials including some serving on Congressional committee on intelligence about it, they seemed…clueless. LINK

Well, duh. Who expects Congress to be intelligent. But when the FBI doesn’t know, that’s scary…

Are you also clueless?

Take THIS TEST and see if you know which groups are Sunni and which ones are Shiites.

Did you get an A?

LINK is a basic summary of the differences between the two groups. LINK is a more scholarly explanation.

However, like encyclopedia explanations of “Protestant vs Catholic”, it ignores history, wars, cultural differences, and the many sub groups of that religion.

For example, one reason the Sunnis hate the Shiites in Iraq is because the Ottoman traditionally used the Sunni to run the place. On the other hand, Iran has a large Sunni minority that could cause trouble. Saudi Arabia is afraid if the Shiites in Iran and Iraq unite,  they will control much of that region’s oil. And then there are the smaller Gulf states, who are pious Shiites but who as traders tend not to go in for fanaticism in religion, which is why my Pinoy relatives prefer to work there instead of Saudi Arabia. Similarly, despite Iran’s backing of Shiite militia, one cannot assume that all the Shiite Arabs in Iraq are going to ally with Iran and become a mullah based theocracy. Remember, Iran is Farsi, not Arab.

And then there are the Kurds…you know, the ones they discussed on 60 minutes…, who live in both these countries, and also in Syria and Turkey.

The Kurds are Sunnis. But traditionally they have been oppressed by Sunni Turks and Shiite Persians. And if they get their two thousand year wish to be an independent state, then Turkey (Shiite) will enter into the fray to stop them.

Confused? Well, if you managed to get through this lecture and the links, you just might know more about it than your local Congressperson.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines with her husband. Her webpage is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket

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