The Creation of an Evil Divide: Between Shi’a-Sunni

By Dr. A. S. Nakadar

The reports coming out of Iraq are gruesome and the potential repercussions of the ongoing violence across the Muslim world are ominous. The incessant news of sectarian violence is polluting Muslim minds. It overshadows all the other news coming out of Iraq, especially the struggle of the American soldiers in combating different militias. Sometimes it appears that the news of sectarian violence is exaggerated and receives wider coverage to hide our own inefficiencies. If the sectarian divide is as deep as presented by the media, and the news of pillage it ensues is true, then the whole ummah is heading for long term devastating consequences. It is incumbent upon all of us to see that the ummah remains united and expose the incidences in Iraq as politically-motivated.

The colonial powers of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st have successfully used a policy of “divide and rule” to maintain their hegemony over a societies and countries. The use of differences in religious beliefs, baits of political power, monetary corruption or despotism and similar other means have successfully lured many individuals or groups to do the unthinkable. There is no dearth of people in making their adversaries’ strategy successful. The ruling or occupying colonial or imperial powers, invariably in the minority, have used this strategy to maintain their control on their subjects.

Present-day Iraq is a witness to this strategy. Every mishap or attacks carried out by the militias on American soldiers or Iraqi soldiers or their supporters have been called “sectarian violence.” There are now specific indications of sectarian violence, but the propaganda that follows is far more sinister than the factual news. So far, reports indicate that the various attacks carried out by the Shi’a or Sunnis were not due to their religious differences, rather the attacks were on those cooperating with the American army and the regime it installed.

No matter who cooperated with the government, Shi’a, Sunni, or Christians became the target of the militias. It so happens that more Shi’a and Christians work for the government than Sunni. And hence the attack on Shias was called as a proof of sectarian violence. To avoid such attacks many Christians have already fled the country.

The first major attack occurred on the day of ‘Ashura on March 9, 2004. But the Shi’a turned against American forces, blaming them as culprits. The second major attack was in the city of Samarra on the Masjid Al-Askari in February of 2006. A group of about 10 people, some claimed to be wearing military or special-forces uniforms, blew up the golden dome of the masjid. This time the Shi’a reacted, but when Sunnis denied doing it, sanity prevailed. But since then, the constant propaganda of attacks on Shi’a by Sunnis and vice versa have led many to believe in it.

Notice the places where the attacks occurred. They are directed at recruitment places for Iraqi police, Iraqi soldiers, police offices, and government offices, buses carrying the police or the Iraqi soldiers or at the places where the government workers or their family members go for shopping, (central and south of Baghdad). It is in the best interest of the present ruling government and the Americans to propagate these attacks as sectarian violence, to legitimize occupation–to show to the American people that American soldiers can’t leave until Iraq is stable.

The other offshoot of this strategy is to weaken the growing Islamic renaissance that the world has witnessed since the Iranian Revolution. The conflict will create a deep divide between the two main branches of Islam, to the extent that it will instill a continuous infighting, weakening the Islamic edifice. Massive propaganda associating Muslims and Islam with terrorism and extremism is part of the same design. This has put our youth, who are our tomorrow’s leaders, on the defensive. These nefarious campaigns have partly succeeded in alienating our youths. This front deserves our immediate attention.

Iraq is not the only part of this game plan. The concept of greater Middle East includes other nations as well. Lebanon flexed its muscles against Israel and to many it won the war. Lebanon is now paying for this–Lebanon is now witnessing the prying open of its religious divide. Palestinians, especially in Gaza, were getting emboldened and thus the enticement of political power and corruption successfully created infighting between Fatah and Hamas. And who supplied the arms to fight amongst themselves? Of course Israel supplied the arms, and it is no secret. To keep Afghanistan in check, the key cards played are of corruption, ethnicity and despotism.

It is important to note that while the evils of tribalism, corruption, and divisions of ethnicity, language and political power remain more or less localized, the impact of divisions and hatred created by using the evil of sectarianism is universal. It seeps into the body of ummah worldwide. And thus it is paramount that we check the infused cancer now before it debilitates the ummah. Our religious scholars are better suited to treat this evil.