Today I will be focusing on many aspects of the Sunni and Shia conflict. One of the aspects which will be covered is the persecution and killings of the Shia Muslim within Afghanistan and the persecution of the Sunni Muslims in Iraq. Additionally, I will also be highlighting key points as to why the Sunni and Shia Muslims do not see eye to eye in certain aspects of Islam. Lastly, I will talk about the intensified agitations of the dispute between Sunni and Shia Muslims within the U.K.
To start off with, I will be talking about the Sunni and Shia conflict within Afghanistan. Embedded in Afghanistan’s ethnic group is the Hazara and they make up the third largest ethnic group in Afghanistan. The Hazara are not seen to be “mainstream Afghans” due to their iconic features which make them stand out from the “regular Pashtun Afghan”. Furthermore, the Hazara are an immense Shia Muslim group and this also makes them stand out from Afghanistan’s large Sunni believers.
The Hazara are direct descendants of Genghis Khan, who was the founder of the Mongol Empire and the Mongol soldiers who settled down in Afghanistan. Genghis Khan came to power by uniting many of the tribes of Northeast Asia.
The persecution of the Shia Hazara began in late 1900’s. Afghanistan’s Emir, Amir Abdul Rahman Khan ordered the killing of all Shias in central Afghanistan which ended up in tens of thousands of Hazara’s killed. Additionally, Hazaras were sold as slaves till the late 19th century. It’s truly saddening that the majority of Afghanistan do not accept the Hazara as our own due to ethnic, religious and cultural differences. They are as Afghan I am and as Afghan as any regular Pashtun person. Till this day, the Hazara are still persecuted even after seeking refuge in parts of Pakistan. Quetta, a city in Pakistan, has persecuted against the Hazara and it is truly frustrating knowing that I cannot do anything about it.
The Hazara were religiously cleansed to follow Sunni Islam, ethnically cleansed in order to rid them from their identity and was killed through monarchy reigns, the Taliban and Al – Qaeda. Now Daesh and the Taliban have teamed up together in order to destroy the Hazaras from their beliefs and to make them vanish silently.
Politics wise, the 2004 Afghanistan Constitution permitted the Hazaras equal rights and were represented in the leadership of former Afghani President, Hamid Karzai. However, till this day the Hazaras equal rights are ignored and they are going through a silent genocide which has not been officially recognised by the current President, Ashraf Ghani and his administration. Sadly, it has also not been recognised by the United Nations.
Around 2 weeks ago, a suicide bomber targetted a Shia Mosque in Afghanistan. The suicide bomber charged into the biggest Shiite mosque in the Herat province on Tuesday night, opened fire on worshippers and blew himself up, killing at least 20 Shia Muslims and injuring dozens more. However, we need to remember it is an estimate and that the number could rise anytime soon. Heartbreaking isn’t it? Knowing that Muslim’s at their most vulnerable and at their most peaceful time of the day were slaughtered, because of what? religious differences? We are all Muslim’s even if there are different religious interpretations.
Moving on, I will now be talking about another silent topic which is not usually talked about, the persecution of Sunni Muslim’s in Iraq. To begin with, Iraq’s former Prime Minister, Nouri al Maliki’s political policies contributed to the estrangement of the minority Sunni Muslims within Iraq. Additionally, Iraqi Sunnis are seen to be discouraged by the utilized power from a few Shia elite. Politics wise, the Sunni Muslim’s of Iraq are not represented well. However, once Daesh contaminated Iraq with its atrocities towards the Shia Muslims, the Kurds and the Yazidis, it could be interpreted that is also when the Sunni Muslim’s of Iraq were given recognition.
Once the uproar of Daesh started in Iraq, the rise of the Shia militias also began which was seen to be persecuting against the Sunni’s of Iraq. Many Sunni Iraqi’s left their rural lives in order to seek refuge from Shia militias and moved to the capital city of Iraq, Baghdad. The journey to safety for Iraqi Sunni’s is one of the most dangerous hurdles they could have faced, everyone would be stopped at checkpoints in order to have their papers checked and read. Iraqi militia reading common Sunni names would be suspicious as they were stereotypically seen to be “agents or part of the Daesh extremist regime”. This is also the reason why many Sunni Muslims would silently vanish once stopped at checkpoints and would never be seen again.
Numerous Sunni Muslims would change their names to either neutral Islamic names or Shia dominated names in order to be able to blend within the Iraqi community and to be able to seek refuge without living in constant fear of being identified as Sunni. Additionally, Sunni Muslims were displaced from their land and were washed from their identity. A genocide of identity? That can be for you to decide.
I will now be focusing on as to why Sunni and Shia Muslims do not see eye to eye religious wise. To begin with, Sunni and Shias have different interpretations when it comes to who should be the Caliph of Islam after Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) died. The Sunni’s believe that Muhammad (PBUH) left the process of figuring out who would succeed him to the Islamic community. The community ended up choosing Prophet Muhammad’s companion, Abu Bakr, a man who was known for his passion and kindness. The caliph’s succeeding Abu Bakr were also companions of the Prophet. Lastly, due to the fact that the caliphs succeeding Muhammad were also his former companions, they are known to be the “rightly guided”.
Shiite teaching emphasises on the belief that the line of succeeding Prophet Muhammad was through his family and not from the community choosing. From this view, the first caliphate was Ali who is seen to also be in the line of the sinless successors known as Imams. Due to these two huge differences, Sunni and Shia Muslims have debates and disagreements till this day.
Lastly, I will finish off by talking about intensified agitations between the Sunni and Shia within the U.K. Starting off, within the U.K. many Islamic societies are mostly under the leadership of Sunni’s and this also drives debates and make Shia’s feel as if they are still inferior and underneath Sunni Muslims. Additionally, even between Sunni and Shia youth, some Sunni’s look down upon Shias and see their religious interpretations as “not the correct way of living an Islamic life”.