The message of Islam is first and foremost a message of Unicity of the Creator and by correlation Unity of the Creation. In that particular context, the unity of the believers and that of Muslims specifically.
Yet, this unity in Faith is far from being present. The Shia-Sunni Fitna or divide is more than just a thorn in the body of Islam, it is actually a poisoned dagger that pits one brother against the other, and stabs in the back when one is unguarded. Such is the state of the Muslim Umma.
Who started it, when did it start, why did it start ? It is a long story, and I can’t in the limited space of this post go into all the historical details, into incidents that took place 1,400 years ago, political incidents to be more precise.
I say political because they were political in nature. Centuries later, they resurfaced with greater brutality, with greater vindictiveness, taking on the form of political treason and betrayal, the form of organized and systematic ethnic and sectarian cleansing, the form of witch hunts, imprisonment, torture, mass arrests, killings, the form of exile, of discrimination—in short the form of Oppression against non-Shias, and Sunnis in particular. And nothing is more hated in the sight of God, than Oppression.
You must have guessed by now where all of this took and is taking place—Iraq of course, where else ?!
The American invasion of Iraq in 2003 carried a specific sectarian agenda, for that agenda to be executed, the Americans heavily relied on, alas, the Shias of Iraq.(some not all—but a good some nonetheless)
Why the Shias in particular? Again, a little reading of contemporary history is necessary.
The Iranian revolution, the Khomeinist revolution to put it more aptly, was not an Islamic revolution per se, but a Shiite revival. The centers of Shiite learning in Najaf and Kerbala in Iraq, were ideologically taken over by the Iranian clergy. This, compounded with the Iran-Iraq war plus the first Gulf war, made it that the Shias of Iraq, for the most part, had/have their spiritual/religious guidance from Qum and hence their political loyalties to Tehran.
One can’t understand this facet of Shi’ism unless one understands the primordial role the Shi’ite clergy (including the Ayatollahs) play in mobilizing these allegiances. To make it simpler for the reader, an appropriate analogy would be practicing Catholics and the role of the Pope and Vatican. Except in the case of the Shias of Iraq, the political and the religious are intimately intertwined.
I was therefore pleasantly surprised when I stumbled upon a blog post written by an Iraqi fellow, who in his own way, addressed the issues I briefly mentioned here, and gave a brief but succinct summary of the historical roots of Shi’ite sectarianism adding his own observations drawn from both personal and other people’s experiences mainly in the Iraqi military. By so doing, he dispels a good deal of the fabricated myths that both Americans and Iraqi Shias concocted together regarding the “ruthless oppression” of their sect.
I shan’t say more on the subject and I greatly encourage you to take the time and read his blog post entitled “The Double Face of Shi’ite Sectarianism”
Copyright © 2012 Layla Anwar
Layla Anwar’s blog is An Arab Woman Blues—Reflections in a sealed bottle where this was first published.