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Sunni and Shia Islam: The Gap Begins to Yawn

Is sectarian strife, i.e. the Sunni vs. Shia split, growing from Iraq and perhaps becoming endemic across the larger Muslim world? From Iraq the world reads daily of the bombings associated with the sectarian divide. Now the embattled Iraqi government, which is attempting to launch a major security crackdown in Baghdad, will have to deal with new strife arising from an allegation that Shia police have raped a Sunni woman during the stabilization effort. Iraq’s Shia Prime Minister, Nouri Maliki, has accused Sunni factions of concocting the story to hamper the security operation, while Sunni politicians hastened to defend the allegations.

But perhaps even more troubling than the violence in Iraq is the growing sectarian acrimony which may be taking hold in the Muslim world. Just last week Sunni militants killed 11 of Shia Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in a bomb attack. Experts also point to the fact that Sunni religious leaders in Saudi Arabia regularly upbraid Shia Muslims as heretics. A recent editorial in an Egyptian newspaper also openly accused Iran of "working actively towards spreading Shia doctrine even in countries which do not have a Shia majority … paving the way for reviving the dreams of the Safavids; The Safavids of Iran established Shia Islam as the official state religion and fought of series of wars against their Sunni Ottoman neighbors.

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Is the conflict between Sunni and Shi’a growing or is the reporting of it growing?

The Sunni/Shi’a strife has been violent for ages. No need to think it is more so now than before.

Radical religion be it Islam or other and radical sectarianism be it Sunni or Shi’a is not a new phenomenon.

What is new is the connectedness of the Middle East region. As connectivity penetrates expect more news of instability.

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