The New Sectarianism

The New Sectarianism The Shi A Sunni Conflict Is One Of The Most Significant Outcomes Arising From The Arab Rebellions Yet, There Is Little Understanding Of Who Is Driving This Tension And The Underlying Causes By Delving Deeply Into The Historical Factors Leading Up To The Present Day Conflict, The New Sectarianism Sheds New Light On How Shi A And Sunni Perceive One Another After The Arab Uprisings, How These Perceptions Have Affected The Arab World, And Why The Dream Of A Pan Islamic Awakening Was MisplacedGeneive Abdo Describes A Historical Backdrop That Serves As A Counterpoint To Western Media Coverage Of The So Called Arab Spring Already By The S, She Says, Shi A And Sunni Communities Had Begun To Associate Their Religious Beliefs And Practices With Personal Identity, Replacing Their Fragile Loyalty To The Nation State By The Time The Arab Risings Erupted Into Their Full Fury In Early , There Was Fertile Ground For Instability The Ensuing Clash Between Islamism And Nationalism, Shi A And Sunni, And Other Factions Within These Communities Has Resulted In Unprecedented Violence So, Abdo Asks, What Does Religion Have To Do With It This Sectarian Conflict Is Often Presented By The West As Rivalry Over Land Use, Political Power, Or Access To Education However, Abdo Persuasively Argues That It Must Be Understood As Flowing Directly From Religious Difference And The Associated Identities That This Difference Has Conferred On Both Shi A And SunniThe New Sectarianism Considers The Causes For This Conflict In Key Countries Such As Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, And Bahrain And The Development Of Regional Trends Abdo Argues That In These Regions Religion Matters, Not Only In How It Is Utilized By Extremists, Moderate Islamists, And Dictators Alike For Political Purposes, But How It Perpetually Evolves And Is Perceived And Practiced Among The Vast Majority Of Muslims Shi A And Sunni Today Are Not Battling Over Territory Alone They Are Fighting For Their Claim To A True Islamic Identity The New Sectarianism The Arab Uprisings and the Rebirth of the Shi a Sunni Divide by Geneive Abdo is a detailed study of the current Arab and Persian condition Abdo is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East She is also a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution and a lecturer at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University She has earned degrees from the University of Texas, Princeton, and Harvard The Middle East, including Iran, is a complex place politically and socially Before the twentieth century, the idea of nations was foreign to the region The partition after WWI divided the region into nation states National identity would eventually complicate and aggravate regional tensions The relations of Sunni and Shi a would spark into large scale violence and propaganda A simplistic example is the Iran Iraq war Shi a Iran was against the Gulf Sunni Iraq which has a Shi a majority was ruled by a nominally Sunni leadership in a mostly secular government Today, Iraqi Sunni minority is in fear of the Shi a majority, to the point of supporting ISIS in some situations The Iraqi Shi a, however, do not want any part of the Iranian Shi a community or expansion It is not just a Shi a Sunni conflict but also a regional one It is not one side or the other there are at least four different sides in the conflict In the days of the Cold War America took a simpler look at the middle East It was basically viewed that Shi a was the enemy This was based on the Iranian Revolution and their supported groups like Hezbollah Today, especially after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the traditional Sunni base has begun to mistrust the US and its support of a Shi a majority government in Iraq Some Sunnis even believe that the US is behind Hezbollah One must also remember that Al Qaeda is a Sunni organization and the 9 11 terrorists were also Sunni Abdo leaves the United States out of the mix except as its role as a catalyst in the deep divide between the sects Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Bahrain play leading roles in this book Saudi Arabia is introduced as an overt player in the region sending troops into Bahrain and recently bombing Yemen It may seem difficult for many Westerners to recognize or understand the difference between Shi a and Sunni It is, however, a definable division much like the split between Catholic and Protestant Similar to Catholicism, Shi a has holy places and saints that are prayed to for their intercession Sunni does not, in fact, the very radical Sunni terror group ISIS destroys shrines of all types and fundamental Sunnis do not consider Shi a to even be Islamic An odd part of the Sunni Shi a conflict is that it is not being fought for land, but for a version of history There are no simple answers in the conflict Shi a clerics in Iran are political and essentially rule the country In Iraq, Ayatollah Sistani remains out of politics, this, however, does not stop politicians from adopting his policies Sistani s one major foray into politics was calling for Sunni and Shi a to unite in fighting ISIS Although defeating a common enemy would be a uniting force between the sects, several Shi a groups have used their new found military power to fight against native Sunnis Abdo examines all parties including the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists, Wahhabists, and the role of the social network Twitter It is a complex situation and one without a universal answer The New Sectarianism does play an important role in providing information, which is the first step to understanding the problem and eventually creating a peaceful coexistence. This complex study by Geneive Abdo explores the way in which recent changes in the Middle Eastern world have reignited the historic fault lines between Sunni and Shi a, the two major branches of the Islamic faith She investigates Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, even Bahrain, in her quest to present this to the reader Some parts of the book explore the ways in which Arab Shi a navigate the tension between accepting Iranian support since Iran postures itself sometimes as defender of all Shi a and other times as a putative leader of a pan Islamic alliance and maintaining distance from Iranian models of being Shi a Other parts of the book explore modern Salafism, with its varying degrees of political engagement, and the general Sunni concern over the increase in Iranian influence thanks to recent destabilizing activities on the part of the native populace and, especially, foreign powers Indeed, some Sunni chiefs in Iraq lent support to ISIS precisely as a Sunni force to counterbalance Iranian gains, and there are many Sunni Arabs who apparently perceive the United States as an ally of Hezbollah All interesting, but the appendices include collections of Tweets from the Twitter accounts of various Salafist clerics, many of whom were featured and interviewed in the main text of the book With that fine bonus material, the book really is fruitful read. I read a shortened version of The New Sectarianism The Arab Uprisings and the Rebirth of the Shi a Sunni Divide which was designed as a policy paper for the US Foreign Office.Geneive Abdo s great strength is how she traces the roots of sectarianism with utter clarity She never assumes anything every key word is defined, from Sunni and Shi a to Vel yat e Faqih and Wahhabism As such, this is a useful guide for anyone without a grounding in Middle Eastern politics who wants to read about Sunni Shi a conflicts in the wake of the Arab Spring Sometimes though, the text s insistence on clarity means that it can circle around I also did find a few missing words and grammar mistakes, but this may have been because the policy document version was prepared in a hurry.The work s other great strength is how thoroughly Geneive Abdo has researched The interviews with Hezbollah chiefs and others are incredibly valuable It s not often that an English language text gets interviews with high up officials throughout Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria and Iran Geneive Abdo also uses the sources lightly, never giving any one interviewee too much airtime or sympathy Her balanced portrayal is both necessary and compelling when discussing fraught conflict, like the battles along Syria Street in Tripoli Ultimately, Geneive Abdo argues for a United States that is sympathetic towards the Shi a without acquiescing to the ruling Shi ite in Iran and Alawites in Syria Pressure should be mounted on Bahrain s Al Khalifa Sunni family so that it deeply considers and implements the Shi ite Al Wefaq opposition s demands. As the Arab Spring erupted, hopes ran high that this signaled a regional cry for secular based reform and pan Islamic cooperation That didn t pan out Instead, it seems to have exacerbated the Shi a Sunni divide in violent and disastrous ways Abdo examines how the prospect of democracy threatens minorities and sends them looking for support, how the religious adherence or not of the old authoritarian ruler drives identity after his ouster, the assistance to be had by Salafi or Shi a regional powers Saudi Arabia or Iran in exchange for religious affiliation, and how this kaleidoscopes differently across Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Bahrain. Pros A short ish book explaining some of the differences between Islamic sects and where their antipathy comes from.Cons It shows how the whole Arab Iran world is complicated than you thought AND after reading it you know the whole thing is hopelessAllow me to expound a bit the Shia Sunni divide in recent decades has turned from a low level religious fever to some super virus that from the sounds of it seems unstoppable It appears that the only thing hated than Jews by the people in question, are each other All because the other side is to my eye just a little different form of Islam, but to these guys is worse than no Islam at all So the central theme of this book is In addition the sectarian war in Syria was pivotal in providing a compelling a compelling narrative for both Sunni and Shia to revisit once again the fundamental questions within the world of Islam Who is a Muslim And who gets to decide pg 46Although she didn t go into it so much this is the crux of the problem Chief among these is opposition to Shia on two fundamental grounds First, core Shia practice includes veneration of a series of divine and even messianic figures from the early centuries of Islam, a tendency that reduces them in the eyes of the Wahhabbis to mushrikin, or polytheist a heretical notion for all of Muslims.Second the Shia staunchly refuse to recognize the righteousness of the Prophet Muhammad s companions and three immediate successors..thus today the Salafist discourse is characterized by the abiding belief that the Shia are not really Muslims and are out to extinguish Sunni believerspg.48One complaint I have is that she almost never mentions ISIS even thought it was published in 2017 I mean even if it is not the prime object of the book, it must have some bearing on the theme.I recognize I have my western bias, but I think if you are objective, it is fair to say that whole mess is hopeless.Another book, another reason to feel depressed.Oh yeah, it also appears there are misogynistic bullies everywhere in the world, and they all like to tweet What is the deal with twitter as the preferred medium for crude insults This book looks at recent history in the Middle East from the perspective of Sunni Shia conflict The author provides a lot of in depth analysis about different Islamic movements, and how they interact with each other For example, she looks at Shia quietists vs interventionists in Iraq She also compares different strands of Sunni Salafism She looks at Sunni Shia conflict in several countries in the region as well The book provided many new insights, but I thought in some cases it was a bit unfocused and wasn t sure whether it wanted to be history or social commentary.

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  • Hardcover
  • 264 pages
  • The New Sectarianism
  • Geneive Abdo
  • 18 April 2019
  • 9780190233143