The Shi’a Revival

February 15, 2007 by  


How Conflicts within Islam will Shape the Future

By Geoffrey Cook, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

Sacramento–February 10th–Vali Nasr is a Senior Adjunct Professor on Foreign Relations and South Asian Politics and the Associate Chair of Research at the Department of National Security at the Department of National Security at the (U.S.) Naval Postgraduate School.

In his talk on the Shi’a Revival, Vali offers the opinion that in the Shi’a/Sunni competition for power and collaboration between themselves will hold the outlook for the Islamic world and much of the non-Islamic world in general. Dr. Nasr opines that the West does not possess the opportunities for the Arab Lands, nor do the Sunni, but rather the Shi’a although we tend to view the Middle East from a Sunni perspective. We must now learn the motivation of the Shi’a as well!

Vali Nasr was born in Tehran; so, with his scholarly understanding of the subject he has personal experience of his culture.

Drastic secularism exists presently in Iraq, but also throughout the Middle East. Even more regional sections of the Fertile Crescent such as the Hezbollah (Lebanese) -Israeli War came out of the influence of the Mesopotamian War. For the first time, Arabs began to criticize other Arabs. It had less to do with the Arab/Israeli struggle than the Shi’a-Sunni divide. American foreign policy is growing ever more sectarian, too.

Most of the upper officers of the American government are ignorant, too, of the differences between the Shi’a and Sunni sectarian divide. This divide has grown further apart, also, due to this horrendous War. The differences between the Sunni and the Shi’a are a bit like the historical rift between the Protestants and Catholics (and Orthodox in Christianity in Europe and America although over the long centuries – barring Northern Ireland – we have learned to live with each other better, but it has broken shockingly the Balkans broke out in a religio-ethnic Wars.

The Iraqi conflict is moreover less over power than Iraqiness–or even religious practice. America did not introduce this divide, for it has been there for some time. “Iraq has always been a Sectarian State,” said Nasr.

During the Clinton Administration we took the Kurds out of that State by enforcing the “no fly zone” after the First Gulf War while the Shi’a uprising in the Central Land Between the Two Rivers” was brutally put down by Hussein government. In this second Iraq War, we liberated the Shi’a–not the Iraqis themselves, from the Saddam State. Under Saddam the Shi’a were willing to give democracy a chance, but were treated as second-class citizens.

Things began to go wrong in 2006. The Shi’a began to oppose the Sunni resistance. The two sides could not find reconciliation. They became committed to the collapse of the Baghdadi State. Furthermore, Shi’a rioters began to fire at American Marines. Historically, Iraq was the first Shi’a state. “The issue is not democracy; the issue is power over the religious divide!”

Ideologically Hezbollah is allied to the Iranians. The destruction of the shrine of the Golden Dome led to a tit-for-tat situation against the Americans since it was assumed we should have protected all the holy sites. In the US, the press began to put its sights on the Shi’a, we confused strategies as mere protests, and failed to comprehend the rise of militias were of the majority Shi’a sect while we continue to emphasize the minority Sunni.

We perceive “[Our policy to Iran]…[to be the same] as [our] policy to Iraq.” With the death of the Taliban and Iraq (both on the East and the West) of the Tehran State), Iran has arisen to find its regional hegemony as the second largest producer of oil and a generally a vibrant economy. 70% of its population is literate. Farsi (Persian) is the third largest language on the Internet – it is not insular, and for the time-being it is an up-and-coming 21st century state.

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