The Shiites and Sunnis in the 21st Century

The main purpose of the paper is to study and analyze the relations between Shiites and Sunnis in the 21st century. Special attention is paid towards the Iraq war within this area. Sunnis and Shiites are the two main denominations within the Islamic religion. The issue of their breakdown is extremely complex and it is difficult to assess it. The difference between the two groups is the cause of the series of conflicts in the Arab world. Over 75% of Muslims in the world are Sunnis and 10-20% of the rest of them are Shia. The origin of the dispute between the two major groups lied in the succession of Muhammad after his death in year 632, but nowadays this conflict has grown and today it touches many areas of Muslim life, religious practices, traditions, politics and social life. It is known that in Iraq the religious majority is represented by Shia, and the relations between the two groups within the region has been marked by both cooperation and struggles, being the main issue for frictions in the Middle East, and in Iraq in particular. The tensions intensified during the Iraq war and nowadays this is the biggest problem that is present in all Muslim countries. This region is known to be the territory with the biggest population and the high level of potential instability with the series of wars and struggles. Therefore, the relations of the two major religious Muslim groups, Shia and Sunnis, is the most important issue that has to be studied and analyzed in order to be able to value and observe it objectively, as well as to be able to provide the series of possible solutions for the existing problem.

One of the major problems that exist in the contemporary Muslim world is the conflict between two biggest religious groups – Shiites and Sunnis. There have always been struggles between them, from the beginning of the outbreak of the oppression. The Muhammad’s succession was taken by the representative of his closest entourage, Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, although a lot of people believed that the legitimate successor was Ali ibnAbiTalib, Muhammad’s cousin, adopted son and the husband of his daughter. The group that supported Abu, is now known as Shiites, while the second one is Sunni. Although Sunni represent the bigger part of the Muslim world, in Iraq the majority of population is Shia. The main problem that is present within the state is that no real power, together with rights and freedoms, has been given to Shia group here, and that is the reason for the constant rebellions and protests.

The history of this conflict is very long and complex, with the most well-known for the numerous oppressions of Shia population that began in the beginning of the 20th century with the British colonial rule that has put down Shia rebellions. The post-colonial period has also been marked by the constant direct and indirect persecution of local Shia population that resulted in the eruption of the series of Shia rebellions. The period of Baath party rule was one of the hardest periods of the Shiites in Iraq, especially during the rule of Saddam Hussein, when the most honorable elders of Shiites have been tortured and 48 major clerics executed. Therefore, every Shia family in the region has its own experience of torture and repressions. The big open rebellion against Saddam rule in 1991 resulted in mass oppressions and execution of Shia rebellions and the country has been ruled by Sunni during all that period until the Iraq war in 2003 (Fisher, 2014).

The Iraq war is one the key moments in the contemporary period of this long warfare. This is the most well-known and the most horrible sectarian strife that took the huge number of lives in both religious groups and caused the series of catastrophes within the state. The conflict is still in the active phase in the present time, and the number of victims is growing with the collateral damage within allied military being overshadowed by the Shia-Sunni revenge cycle of killing with Sunni car bombs and Shia death squads. It is known that the great number of suicide bombers have blown themselves in Iraq. According to the official statistics, in 2008 their number has reached 1, 121 people, and it has been growing every day(Fisher, 2014). The horrible character of bombing is known everywhere within the country as the suicide bombers have targeted not only the big numbers of civilians, but also shrines, mosques, weddings, hospitals, markets, offices, schools, museums, libraries and many other places.

One of the most well-known Sunni leaders is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi that has been ruling the aggression and calling people for the warfare against Shia population (Boeree, 2012) Before his death, he was known for his active role in the conflict and his quoting Muhammad ibnAbd al-Wahhab in the series of issues, especially the one urging followers to kill Shia in the country and the other where he called Shia ‘snakes’ (Boeree, 2012). Sunni has been broadly supported by Al-Qaeda with the active role of the affiliated website of the organization, where there was posted a call for the full-fledged warfare against Shiites all over the Iraq, whenever or wherever they were found. The war is still in the active phase with the Wahhabi suicide bombers killing a lot of people and causing a serious damage within the country.

Shia death squads are also known for their active role in the warfare with the thousands of Sunnis being tortured and executed. The government-ruled squads are still active and their military operations result in the mass arrest of Sunnis activists. Their activity in 2005-2006 resulted in the killing of thousands of Sunni civilians(Arraf, 2013). It is also known that these squads consist mainly of Shia Muslims and, therefore, the conflict is still between the religious groups that try to restore their leading positions in the region.