Shi’a Sunni divide

By Dr. A.S. Nakadar, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

Last week I wrote about the people who are trying to create an artificial Shi’a Sunni divide and how it is becoming real. And how our government and other interested parties are trying to camouflage their failure in Iraq by playing a key role in exploiting the existing small differences between Shi’a and Sunni. Every day the divide is deepening and every hour brings in the gruesome news of sectarian mass killings.

Each time we hear of the gang-style mass murders in Iraq and of bombings in marketplaces our heads sink into our hands nodding in disbelief. This kind of news makes our spirit weary and despaired that paralyzes our thought process. It is draining the strength of the whole ummah.

What was once a war on WMDs, then a war against terrorism, then a war for democracy has been transformed into a sectarian war by the Iraqi people’s resistance. Continuous distortions of the news by the military spokespersons and further distortions by the media are instrumental in creating this monstrous divide in the ummah.

And it may sound silly at present but soon we will hear that America wants to line up Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Sunni regimes to curtail the growing influence of a nuclear Shi’a Iran in the region. These regimes will follow their master’s voice–to confront Iran over the development of its nuclear plant, irrespective of whether it is for peaceful purposes or not. One day this will leave us scratching our heads in disbelief.

Once I was having a casual discussion with Imam Qazwini of the Islamic Center of America. The topic of sectarian strife came up and he rightly said: “Brother, our difference is only 5% while we agree on 95%, and it is unfortunate that people pay more attention to this 5% of our differences.” How true that is.

It reminded me of two incidences in my life, one based on sheer ignorance and another enlightened one. Both instances reflect the state of our religious scholars.

I was on my sojourn to India. After one of the functions, I asked my host to lead me to a masjid for Salatul Dhuhr. They lead me to a masjid across the street. One brother objected and insisted that I should pray in a masjid a block away. I ignored him.

When I entered the Masjid I realized why someone had wanted me to pray in another masjid. The masjid where my host took me belonged to Shi’a brothers. I offered my prayers there and when we came back, I gave another short lecture, the gist was: When we can pray on the road, or on the grass, or in buildings, or other such places irrespective of its cleanliness, what is wrong in praying in Allah’s (swt) house? Is it because a particular sect of people built it? My hosts were Shi’a’s, I didn’t know till then, and others (Sunni) in the function were pleased to hear the short sermon.

Another incidence occurred in America. People had gathered for a socio-political meeting in a Shi’a Masjid. The majority of participants were Sunnis. The organizers in a prior meeting, held a few days before, had decided a Sunni imam would lead the maghreb prayer. When people stood up for `iqama, a Sunni from the back row politely said, “The imam of this masjid should lead the prayer.” Hearing this, the Sunni Imam refused to lead. He insisted that the Shi’a imam lead. The Shi’a imam, after hesitation, led the prayer. He performed the salat, observing the Sunni way, including tying of his hands. Imagine the respect both imams gained from the congregation. What an example befitting the ummah.

Here in America, the media is now playing up a Shi’a-Sunni divide. About a month ago some miscreants vandalized Muslim businesses and a couple of masajid in Dearborn-Michigan. One belonged to Sunni and the rest belonged to Shi’a. The written statement read “Go home 9/11 murderers, you idol worshipers.” This doesn’t sound like a Sunni or Shi’a’s work, does it? But the media projected it as proof of growing sectarian divisions in the USA. Muslim intelligentsia labeled it as another attempt to increase the divide amongst ourselves and to further America’s Islamophobia. This is a classical example of what is happening in Iraq. Let someone do the job, and blame it on Shi’a or Sunni.

The mighty media controls our mind and we have no effective way to counter their bigotry. Shouldn’t we support all those who are making efforts in establishing our own media in this country to counter falsehood and stand for justice? It squarely places responsibility on our religious scholars, social leaders, political activists, think tanks and our various organizations in making our communities vigilant and educated on our issues that affect us, religious or otherwise, that will help in thwarting such nefarious designs.