Adaline Zaman Synopsis The Sunni-Shiite Controversy: A Political Conflict Thesis: While it is true the Sunni-Shiite conflict originated as a result of religious differences, today it is purely political as witnessed from the very cause of the division, the ongoing political power struggle throughout the Middle East, and the conflict’s relation to war on terror. Counter-Arguments: The dispute dividing the Ummah (Muslim community) did not arise as a means of obtaining ultimate power and control, but rather formed from the lack of preparedness and miscommunication on the behalf of Prophet Muhammad (mpbuh). For centuries the continuous power struggle witnessed in present day Middle East originates from religious disagreements between both sects, each believing they are the pure Muslims. The increasing violence in such countries as Iraq is primarily due to the United States and the Muslims’ retaliation against these “invaders” in their homeland. Argument 1: The division between Shiites and Sunnis dates back to the death of the Prophet Muhammad (mpbuh) when the question arose as to who was to become the leader of the Ummah, resulting in the political struggle of one sect ruling over the other. • 1st instance, the Muslims found a leader by election. 2nd instance, the 1st leader nominated and appointed his successor. 3rd instance, the 2nd successor appointed a committee to select one out of themselves as the future leader of the Muslim community. Because a Sunni was elected in the 1st instance, Sunni reign remained dominant. 1 • When Ali was named the fourth Caliph, Sunnis acted out against the new Shiite government, resulting in Ali’s assignation in the war of 661. 2 • The war continued with Ali's son, Hussein, leading the Shiites and Mu'awiyah’s son, Yazid, leading the Sunnis. The two sides met on a battlefield near modern Karbala on Oct. 10, 680, which contributed to the eventual split of Islam into Sunnite and Shiite sects. 3 Argument 2: The ongoing Sunni-Shiite political power struggle is prevalent throughout the Middle East today, as both sects strive to dominate the other. • “For Shiites, Sunni rule has been like living under apartheid.” 4 At the beginning of the 20th century, the Turkish Sunni Ottomans fought a series of wars with the Shiite Safavids of Persia, gaining control of the Arab territories, cementing Sunni dominance. 1 Nasr, Vali. The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future. New York, NY: W. W. Norton, 2006, 32. 2 Ibid 3 Ghosh, Bobby TIME. 22 Feb. 2007. 7 Dec. 2009 <http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1592849,00.html>. 4 Nasr, Vali. The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future. New York, NY: W. W. Norton, 2006, 93. Adaline Zaman • Most recently Iran is planning a revolution against the Sunni government by rising unsettlement in Iraq to initiate Shiite control, enhancing Iran’s power and position in the Middle East through the pursuit of a nuclear program, and a complete Hezbollah takeover of Lebanon. 5 • By 2006, the United Nations had deemed the situation a civil war. 6 In the first post-Saddam election in January 2005, Shiites gained governance and instigated their revenge by dominating the military and higher authority positions, avenging old grudges against Sunnis. Argument 3: As a direct cause of the ongoing Sunni-Shiites conflict, violence is increasing as numerous Sunni and Shiite extremist groups are acting out in violence, each trying to outshine the other through violent acts of expression. • The first major incident of this sectarian violence was in 1986 with the killing of the Shiite leader of Tanzeem Fiqha Jaafriya. 7 In retaliation, the Sunni founder of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan was murdered. • In the late 1990s, Hezbollah’s patron Iran, gathered forces on its border with Afghanistan’s Taliban, harbouring Al-Qaeda. The Iranian revolution was led by Shiite clerics, influencing Shiite communities all over the world. • The occurrences in Baghdad have been labelled as sectarian cleansing according to Sunni and Shiite officials as well as the media. Adnan al-Dulaymi, the leader of the Sunni-led Iraqi Accordance Front, affirms that Shiite militias are in the process of turning Baghdad into a Shiite city. 5 Nasr, Vali. The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future. New York, NY: W. W. Norton, 2006, 93. 6 Ibid 7 Tutor Gig Encyclopedia. Tutor Gig Encyclopedia, 2009. Web. 5 Jan. 2010 <http://www.tutorgig.com/ed/Sectarian_violence>.
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