Sunni or Shiite?

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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You could perhaps be forgiven for thinking that the title indicated that today’s post is about the weather, but it isn’t. Instead I’m doing a Sunday Sermon (otherwise known as a rant) about things Middle Eastern.

It is a part of the world about which most of us know very little, but a place that has affected, and will affect, all our lives dramatically.

map-middle-east

If you listen to CNN or ABC or any of the other media outlets you would be left with the impression that what has been happening in the Middle East and the terrorist offshoots that it has spawned is solely a religious crusade by Muslims against all other religions, particularly the Christians and the Jews.

Granted that type of hatred does exist and is being fomented by demented Islamic clerics within the Muslim community both at home and abroad, but it is by no means the whole picture.

Just as there are many different sects within, for example, the Christian faith, there are different denominations within the Muslim faith also.

The latter consists of two main factions, the Sunnis and the Shiites, and a lot of what has been, and is happening in the Middle East has its roots in a sectarian conflict and power struggle between these two factions of Islam.

It’s always difficult, and a little bit dangerous, to try to sum up a long standing conflict in a couple of paragraphs, but basically what happened was that after the death of the Prophet Muhammad his followers split into two factions, those who accepted Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s father-in-law, as the rightful successor (the Sunnis) and those who believed that Ali, Muhammad’s son-in-law, should be successor (the Shiites).

Rather than find common ground over the centuries the differences and bitterness remained and are still being played out throughout the Middle East today.

Syria, where the politicians seem hell bent on involving us next, is a prime example of this sectarian conflict. The Assads, who have been in power for over forty years, are Alawaites which is a branch of Shia Islam. Currently there is an attempt to overthrow the Assad regime by opposing forces that come from the Sunni faction.

The Sunnis comprise around three-quarters of the Syrian population, as opposed to about 12% to 15% for the Shias, and that will be used as justification for siding with the forces trying to overthrow Assad. The fact that Syria under Assad participated in the US-led Gulf War against Saddam Hussein in the 1990-91 Operation Desert Storm will be quietly forgotten, as will the fact that Hamas, regarded as a terrorist organization by most Western states including the US, Canada, and the EU, supports the Syrian Opposition.

However, the real reason that America and her allies will side with the Sunni faction has nothing to do with the lofty goal of establishing democracy in Syria. In fact it has very little to do with Syria at all, but everything to do with Saudi Arabia.

The ruling Sheiks and the vast majority of the population in Saudi Arabia are Sunni, but there is also a significant Shia population in the country and it contains Mecca and Medina, the two holiest cities of Islam, which are a focal point for all Muslims.

Are you getting the picture?

saudi oil well

If by chance Assad’s regime were to survive and perhaps emerge stronger than ever, some Western nations are afraid that it would give encouragement to those Shia and fundamentalist factions within Saudi Arabia to also create unrest there too, which in turn would have a devastating effect on oil supplies and oil prices and further damage the already weak economies in the West. 

It won’t work out as planned though. These things never do. Eventually there will be some kind of disruption within Saudi Arabia and the economic consequences will be felt worldwide.

But in the meantime that’s what Syria is really all about, according to me anyway. And until someone can come up with a better explanation I for one will not believe the claptrap from the politicians and their tame media front men.

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6 thoughts on “Sunni or Shiite?

  1. Well done. The media does nothing more than herald a political formula for the situation. Politics is the answer to everything approach. Get religion and politics (and the media) out of the way and people will have a better chance of surviving a market bomb explosion in downtown Baghdad.

  2. It seems to me most governments (but especially the US) tend to support whatever group of people which can best be advantageous to them. It doesn’t seem to be about what might be best for the people of the region, but more about what is best for us, doesn’t it?

    • There will always be an element of self interest and probably there should be. But we could do without the hypocrisy of pretending it is for someone else’s good, when it really isn’t.

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