Case Study: How Have Sunni and Shia Beliefs Led to Conflict?
Within Islam, there are two main branches—Sunni and Shia. The divisions between these groups go back to the early years of the religion. The death of Muhammad in A.D. 632 led to a dispute over the succession of leadership in Islam. What we today call the Shia insisted that the Muslim leader, or caliph, be a descendant of Ali, the son-in-law and cousin of Muhammad, and his wife Fatima, Muhammad’s daughter. Conversely, the Sunni believed that the leader should be selected by the Islamic community on the basis of personal qualities and abilities.
The split between the two groups has persisted over the centuries. Today Sunnis are the majority of Muslims. It is estimated that between 85 and 90 percent of all Muslims worldwide are Sunni. Only in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, and Azerbaijan do Shias make up the majority of Muslims.
Iran is a country dominated by Shia Muslims. With this dominance has come some conflict—and not all of it having to do purely with matters of deeply held religious faith. In many places, Sunnis and Shias have vied for political power and sought to advance their people’s interests at the expense of others.
After the Iranian Revolution, Islamic law was reintroduced. Although the new government was a republic with elements of a parliamentary democracy, it was also a theocracy. Shia clerics have final approval of legislation, with the intention of ensuring compliance with Islamic law. Iran does permit and have religious minorities. These include a small but significant Sunni Muslim population (many of whom are Kurds), Zoroastrians, Christians, and Baha’is. However, relations between the government and its Sunni minority have been complicated, and members of religious minorities are treated as second-class citizens.
Answer each question below in short essay form. Each question is worth 10 points. Upload your document into Blackboard when complete.
Drawing Conclusions: How might religious differences affect how countries interact?
Identifying Cause and Effect: How might the actions of a group like Jundallah promote the denial of rights to Sunni groups in Iran?
Identifying Cause and Effect: How might the actions of the Iranian government promote the activities of groups like Jundallah?