Al-Qaeda and the Sunni-Shiite Cleavage

[Newsweek] Fareed Zakaria - During the Reformation, Christians of differing sects massacred each other as they fought to own the true interpretation of their religion. Something similar seems to be happening within Islam. Here the divide is between the Sunnis, who make up 85% of the Muslim world, and the Shiites, who represent most of the other 15%. What does the Sunni-Shiite cleavage mean for al-Qaeda? Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, both Sunnis, created al-Qaeda to be a pan-Islamic organization, uniting all Muslims as it battled the West, Israel, and Western-allied regimes like Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Neither was animated by hatred of Shiites. Bin Laden began his struggle hoping to topple the Saudi regime. He is now aligned with the Saudi monarchy as it organizes against Shiite domination. This necessarily limits al-Qaeda's broader appeal and complicates its basic anti-Western strategy.

2007-02-05 01:00:00

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