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October 27, 2006

Sunni and Shi'ite :An Attempt to Illuminate the Differences

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Jeff Stein, from the New York Times, has been giving a pop quiz in Washington lately, the question being "Can You Tell a Shiite from a Sunni?" You may be horrified, as was I, to learn that muckymucks high in FBI counterintelligence, as well as the (Republican) head of the house intelliigence subcommittee flunked.

When I recovered from my shock, I got honest with myself, and had to admit that I, too, lack clarity around this issue. Bet you do too. If you don't, please develop a chart and forward it to me.

Fortunately, I have the internet to fill the holes in my brain, at least temporarily, and I got to work.

I found a REALLY short summary, that's too esoteric, and reductionistic, but makes up for those flaws with brevity. It passed the Dakota Attention Span Test. I was really looking for that chart, to no avail.

Ibrahim Al-Shawi, blogger and author of "A Glimpse of Iraq" offers us The Basics, which are longer and much more readable. This is not a simple subject. He has an nice section on the switching back and forth that used to go on for neighborly and tax reasons.

Reza Aslan tells the most poetic story

In the interest of proselytization the always hopeful Evangelical Christians, have done their homework. From their perspective, the Shi'ah are more Jesus friendly, and therefore are more likely to welcome a Christian missionary in their midst. Frankly, I think their timing is off.

It seems preferable to live under the Sunnis from a woman's point of view, except in the inheritance department (see The Basics).

For those audio learners among you , NPR interviewed Victor Tanner of The Brookings Institute about the increasing chasm between the Sunni's and the Shi'ites in Baghdad. As in Northern Ireland, where Catholics and Protestants were fiercely divided, sect membership it is now a matter of life and death.

In most of the world, these differences don't matter very much. However there are lessons to be learned about fanning the flames of difference that we in the USofA might take to heart

If anyone thinks of it -- you might forward this to the FBI, or, now that you're an expert, get to work on that chart.

Photo note: Got the illumination part, even though the minaret leaves much to be desired. A girl has to settle for what pops up in her environment.

Posted by Dakota at October 27, 2006 05:42 PM