Sunni and Shiite Muslims: Choosing a Sect

[New York Times] Noah Feldman - The U.S. finds itself in the odd position of seeming to favor a Shiite government in Iraq and Sunni leaders everywhere else. What began more than 1,300 years ago as an argument over whether the Prophet Muhammad should be succeeded by his cousin Ali or by an unrelated companion became a bloody civil war, then hardened over time into a theological split. But who, exactly, is our natural ally in this historic conflict? Sunnis make up as much as 90% of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims. Our support for the Iranian-backed Shiite parties who run the government in Iraq hasn't exactly worked out so far. But Sunni Islam is in a sorry state, dominated by a purist and anti-intellectual fundamentalism that has been bankrolled by Wahhabi Saudi Arabia. Osama bin Laden is a Sunni who condemns Shiite and American infidels in the same breath. The writer is a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

2007-03-05 01:00:00

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