Violence, death, and blood being shed are all occurring in a country in the Middle East.
No, we’re not talking about Syria.
Although Syria has been popularized in the media due to their civil war, Iraq has experienced growing violence as April has the highest fatality count by sectarian violence since 2008. In response, Baghdad has restricted 10 television channels accusing them of promoting violence. One of the channels blocked was Al Jazeera, a news channel.
Since the Americans left Iraq, old tensions between the Sunni and Shia Muslims have returned along with rivalries with the Kurds have erupted into violence. Most of the western world might wonder why the Sunnis and Shiites hate each other so much, as they belong to the same religious umbrella – Islam.
Historically, Sunnis believe themselves to be the keepers of the truth faith of Islam, as the word Sunni derives from “Sunnah” meaning customary practices. Most of the Islamic world identifies themselves as Sunni, as 90% of the 1.4 billion Muslims in the world would check off Sunni to identify themselves. The minority Shiites occupy 89% of Iran’s population, with scattered communities across the Middle East. Believed to have been descended from Muhammad’s daughter Fatima, and son in law Ali, the Shiites were followers of Ali until he was assassinated. The Shiites continued to follow Hussein, who they believed to be the third Imam, but were forced to migrate to Iraq by the Ummayad dynasty, who controlled the Islamic empire at the time and identified themselves as Sunni. Hussein was later killed by the Ummayads, which caused the large split and dissension between the groups. Ashoura marks the death of Hussein, celebrated by Shiites through self mutilation.
Additionally, the spiritual difference between the Shiites and Sunnis simply is that the Sunnis do not believe in a form of sainthood, while the Shiites believe that some leaders are appointed by God and are free of sin. Additionally, Shiites believe that Mahdi will be Muhammad al Mahdi who was last seen in 874, while Sunni’s believe the Mahdi will be named Muhammad, and be a descendent of Muhammad.
As the modern age turned the world into a much smaller place, Shiites and Sunni’s rivalry was renewed as a Kuwaiti Sheikh stated that Shiites were “the world’s biggest display of heathens and idolatry” while al Zarqawi (former leader of al – Qaeda) stated that the Shiites were a larger enemy than the Americans. Hezbollah, interestingly enough is Shia, while al Qaeda is Sunni. Thus one can see that not all Islamic militant groups are alike, and would most likely not unify due to their religious differences.
|Zarqawi, not a fan of Americans, and Shias.|
It is important to understand the history between the groups to properly look at the violence in proper context. Iraq is led by a Shiite government, and have reportedly tried to stop sectarian violence by restraining their own Shiite militias. This is opposing to Sunni opinion, as some have said they face discrimination as the government ties Sunni believes with terrorist activity. One opinion is of SOS Iraq coordinator Dirk Adriaensens stating that the government is to blame.
“After ten years of occupation there are still no basic services. People are randomly arrested, locked up without charge, tortured, women, children and men are being raped. The talk about sectarianism is wrong. These are not sectarian protests. These are protests against the unbearable situation for the Iraqi people. There is poverty, there is unemployment, there is no healthcare, and the education system has collapsed.”
It is most likely these reason stated by Mr. Adriaensens that have caused violence. With little hope for a better future, idle hands are the devils workshop may be the best idiom to describe the violence in Iraq.