Monday, May 29, 2017

Shia vs. Sunni: The Schism Western Politicians Don’t Understand and Won’t Discuss - Breitbart News Network

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Shia vs. Sunni: The Schism Western Politicians Don’t Understand and Won’t Discuss

y JOHN HAYWARD25 May 2017
Western politicians rarely acknowledge the schism between Shia and Sunni Islam. There is nothing remotely comparable to this schism in any other religion in the modern world.

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Few Western politicians know the first thing about the Sunni-Shiite rift, which flows from a doctrinal dispute that might seem trivial to modern outsiders. When Mohammed died in the 7th Century, there was a profound disagreement among the early followers of Islam about who should succeed him as leader. 
The heart of the Sunni-Shiite conflict is that the Sunnis thought the new leader or “caliph” should be elected and chose Mohammed’s close friend Abu Bakr. The leader of the Islamic State, who styles himself as “caliph” or ruler of all true Muslims, calls himself “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi” in homage to the first caliph. His real name is Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim al-Badri.
The dissident group we now know as Shiites insisted that only a blood relative of Mohammed was fit to lead, rallying behind Ali bin Abu Talib, who was both Mohammed’s cousin and son-in-law. Ali actually took a turn as caliph after Abu Bakr died, so it would be more precise to say the enduring rift within Islam was caused by Ali’s assumption of leadership and the argument over his successor.
A great deal of 7th-century tribal politics swirled around this conflict, making it more complex than any brief summary could capture. Among other factors, there was Islam’s development into a warrior religion, leading to clan rivalries and vicious arguments over plunder. Personal loyalties to Ali or his rivals played a role as well.
But this is a religious schism, not a matter of stimulating debate between historians. Shiites believe stealing leadership away from the lineal descendants of Mohammed was apostasy, a sin against the true faith.
Few Western politicians know the first thing about the Sunni-Shiite rift, which flows from a doctrinal dispute that might seem trivial to modern outsiders. When Mohammed died in the 7th Century, there was a profound disagreement among the early followers of Islam about who should succeed him as leader. 
The heart of the Sunni-Shiite conflict is that the Sunnis thought the new leader or “caliph” should be elected and chose Mohammed’s close friend Abu Bakr. The leader of the Islamic State, who styles himself as “caliph” or ruler of all true Muslims, calls himself “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi” in homage to the first caliph. His real name is Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim al-Badri.
The dissident group we now know as Shiites insisted that only a blood relative of Mohammed was fit to lead, rallying behind Ali bin Abu Talib, who was both Mohammed’s cousin and son-in-law. Ali actually took a turn as caliph after Abu Bakr died, so it would be more precise to say the enduring rift within Islam was caused by Ali’s assumption of leadership and the argument over his successor.
A great deal of 7th-century tribal politics swirled around this conflict, making it more complex than any brief summary could capture. Among other factors, there was Islam’s development into a warrior religion, leading to clan rivalries and vicious arguments over plunder. Personal loyalties to Ali or his rivals played a role as well.
But this is a religious schism, not a matter of stimulating debate between historians. Shiites believe stealing leadership away from the lineal descendants of Mohammed was apostasy, a sin against the true faith.
Iran still believes its theocracy has rightful authority over Islam under the Shiite model of descent from Mohammed, for example. One of the candidates in the recent Iranian presidential election, cleric Ebrahim Raisi, wears a black turban to signify he is a sayed, a descendant of Mohammed. Raisi choose green as his campaign color because he wanted to take the color back from the secular “Green Movement” demonstrators and restore its “real meaning” as the color of “the revolutionary grandsons of the Prophet.” Those grandsons attempted a revolution against the early Sunni caliphs. They did not die of old age.
Sunni and Shia share many essential beliefs, but even their shared beliefs can be sources of tension. Both Sunnis and Shiites make pilgrimages to the holy cities in Saudi Arabia. Iran frequently castigates the Sunni Saudis over their management of the hajj pilgrimage, alleging discrimination against Shiites along with poor event management. The Saudis supply plenty of poor event management to complain about.
The royal family of Jordan is seen by some analysts as key to bridging the Sunni-Shiite divide, because the Hashemite ruling dynasty of Sunni Jordan claims direct descent from Mohammed’s family, satisfying the Shiite criteria for authentic leadership of Islam. Unfortunately, this also means the Jordanian regime gets to enjoy the violent hatred of both Sunni and Shiite extremists. The Sunni Islamic State infamously burned a captured Jordanian pilot alive in a cage and spread the image across the Internet as one of its favorite propaganda videos. Jordanian officials have nevertheless said they regard the Islamic Republic of Iran as a greater threat to their security than ISIS or other Sunni extremists.
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