Shia Muslims & Sunni Muslims: The War Within Islam

Today several bombing attacks occurred in Iraq and Pakistan. Also, the attacks were unlikely coordinated the events of today are closely related in expressing the deep conflict between the two main branches of Islam: The Shias and the Sunnis. The bombings are the expression of a 1,320 years old conflict fought between Shia Muslims and Sunni Muslims.

In Iraq, at least 31 people were killed and dozen wounded on Friday near the Shia holy city of Karbala. This follows another suicide-bomb attack on Wednesday which killed 23 people and injured 143, also near Karbara. The victims in both attacks were Shia-Muslims intending to celebrate Arbaeen, which marks 40 days after the Ashura anniversary commemorating the slaying of Shia Islam’s most important martyrs; Imam Hussein by the armies of the Sunni Calif Yazid in 680 AD.

The killing of Imam Hussein was the event that led to the split of Islam into the two main sects: Sunnis & Shias. Shia-Muslims consider Hussein( the grand son of Prophet Mohammed) to be the 3 RD Imam, and the rightful successor of Islam’s founder. Imam Hussein’s martyrdom is widely interpreted by Shias as a symbol of the struggle against injustice, tyranny and oppression.

Iraqi officials, which are in majority Shia-Muslims, immediately blamed Al-Qaeda, whose members follow the Wahabi school, an ultra orthodox branch of Sunni Islam. Saudi Arabia’s ruling class belongs to the same strict Wahabi interpretation of the Muslim faith.

In Pakistan, the other bombing attacks took place in Karachi on Friday. More than 20 people were killed. Twelve people were killed and 40 wounded in the 1ST attack on a bus carrying Shia-Muslims to a religious procession marking the end of the holy month of Muharrah. A motor bike rigged with explosives was rammed into the bus. A 2ND blast occurred shortly after elsewhere in Karachi. The explosion took place in front of Jinnah hospital as the wounded from the motor bike attack were rushed to be admitted for treatment. The AFP reports that the second attack killed 10 people.

Beside a gruesome reenactment of a 1,300 years old conflict between Shias and Sunnis, the events of today are anchored in a more prosaic context. In Iraq, it is about the upcoming elections where Sunnis fear of not getting a fair representation. Since 1920, Iraq had being  ruled by the Sunni Muslims minority until the invasion by the US which toppled Saddam Hussein. The Shias are now ruling Iraq and are  the majority in the country, they represent around 60 percent of the population. But in a wider geopolitical context what is really at play here is an increasingly violent struggle for influence between the Shia-Muslims in Iran and the rest of the Sunni dominated states surrounding the Islamic Republic.

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