The Shia-Sunni Conflict: The Most Deadly Religious War of our Time

Analysis, posted 07.06.2012, from Iran, in:
The Shia-Sunni Conflict: The Most Deadly Religious War of our Time (Photo: picture-alliance/dpa)

Ramadan is just around the corner; Ramadan, the month of intra-Islamic hatred. Every day, Sunni preachers across the Islamic world and in mosque communities in Europe and around the globe will denounce the heresies of Shiism in their evening sermons. And every day, Shia preachers across the Islamic world and in mosque communities in Europe and around the globe will condemn the heresies of Sunnism in their evening sermons.

Television channels will select the choicest of these sermons and will beam them into living rooms around the Islamic world, just as they did last year, only more obtrusive, more resounding and more hollow. Once again, staunch Sunnis will be told why Shia clerics, ayatollahs, are leading the community of the faithful astray. For their part, staunch Shias will once again be told why Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the man who gave his name to Wahhabism, unleashed his erroneous doctrine on the world.

The religious-political establishments in Saudi Arabia and Iran will acknowledge with gratification the powerful, eloquent presence of their respective messages. Once again, no one will have given an inch in the battle for interpretational supremacy of their religion and the claim to political leadership in the Islamic world.

Highlighting the other's faults

Intellectually, ethically and aesthetically, contemporary Islam will be a sorry sight to behold. Its loudest spokesmen will hone a culture that focuses on the other, a culture that is a breeding ground for mass murder, for the obliteration of villages and districts, for the most deadly religious war of our time. For years, the worst battlefields in the war have been Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and Lebanon. Now, Syria has joined the fray and threatens to top anything that we have seen thus far.

The financial and ideological backers of this religious campaign are based in Riyadh and Tehran. They view their respective religious communities as compliant animals that will follow them blindly into the battle for power and influence in the Middle East without a second thought. Unfortunately, they are all too frequently proven right by the faithful themselves.

No one can deny any longer that there is a link between the Saudi-Iranian power struggle and the steadily intensifying antagonism between Sunnis and Shias throughout the entire Islamic world. This is all the more unfortunate considering that all of this initially seemed to be a passing mistake, an slip-up of history.

...

Stefan Buchen; Translated by Aingeal Flanagan

[Excerpt—See accompanying URL for full original text]