Islamic Sectarianism

Can Sunni-Shiite hostilities be resolved?

  • By:Leda Hartman
  • Content Type: Report
  • Publisher: CQ Press
    • Publication year: 2012
    • Online pub date:
  • DOI:


Sectarian rifts are almost as old as Islam itself. They surfaced in 632, shortly after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, when Muslims disagreed over who should succeed him. Although the original sectarian split was violent, Islam's two major branches — Shiism and Sunnism — have co-existed peacefully more often than not over the centuries. But recently, sectarian tensions once again have erupted into full-scale violence in the wake of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and last year's Arab Spring democracy movement. The volatile situation is not just about theology. Competition for power and privilege intensifies the hostility and distrust. In postwar Iraq, sectarian attacks killed 325 people in July, the highest monthly toll since August 2010. Currently, the epicenter of the sectarian crisis is ...

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