Thursday, April 26, 2007

Shiite-Sunni Friendship Never Gets Media Attention (Video)

While most Media report the conflict between Shiite and Sunni, the friendship among a local restaurant staff contradicts it.

Click on the headline and watch the video about this topic.

Related to Shiite-Sunni (In-depth)
Zabihullah Noori

While thousands of Muslims kill each other over the sectarian fights in Iraq, many Shiite and Sunni Muslims live in peace and brotherhood in different parts of the U.S.
They say that the tension in Iraq is not as deadly as it is being reported by the media.
Amirah Ismail, an Egyptian-American sophomore at ASU believes that the media is not lying about the sectarian fights in Iraq. However, she said, “The media is biased when it comes to Islam.”
Ismail said that she had serious discussions with her Shiites friends, but they all ended peacefully. She said, “If we notice, we have more similarities in both sectors than the differences.” She does not prefer one sector over the other, as she said, “Each Muslim has his/her own relation with Allah. No one is better than the other.”
Faraz Khan, a Pakistani Sunni, is a software developer at ASU. He never had any discussions with his Shiites friends about religion. Khan believes that the differences in both sectors are not deadly. It is just a matter of preferences in practice.
Khan said, “Once I invited some of my Sunni and Shiite friends at my house. The Sunnis prayed collectively, while the Shiites offered there prayers individually.”
The reason why Shiites did not join the prayer is because Shiites do not pray after any individual unless they know that person’s background up to three generations. Sunnis attend collective prayer, regardless of who is leading it.
Khan said that there are Shiites and Sunnis living in Pakistan, but their relations are brotherly and peacefully. Khan also believes that the media is not fair about this issue. He said, “The issue of Shiite and Sunni is over-exaggerated in the U.S. media, for the most part.”
Hani Rahal, is the public relation officer for Al-Mahdi Community Center, the only Islamic center for the Shiite Muslims in the Valley. Rahal said that the relations between Shiite and Sunni in the valley are excellent. He said, “We pray with each other and hang out with each other.” As for the issue of Shiite and Sunni in Iraq, Rahal Said, “Anyone who is killing any innocent claiming to be either Shiite or Sunni has no religion at all.”
According to Rahal, since the U.S. policy failed in Iraq and Middle East, they are causing these sectarian fights to legitimize their stay there. Rahal said, “There is a failure of American policy in Middle East; the only way to succeed is to cause sectarian fights.” He believes that the sectarian war in Iraq is a political issue, not a religious one. As he said, “It is a political issue that people of different sectors are fighting in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East. It has got nothing to do with Islam.”
The sectarian war between the Shiite and the Sunni in Iraq maxed out after the U.S. Marines entered the country. Iraq, having a Shiite majority population was ruled by Saddam Hussein, a dictator from a Sunni minority. Shiites were suppressed throughout Hussein’s regime. After the presidential election of Iraq with the support of U.S., Shiites took over the power, but it was not accepted by Sunni minority. This power shift was the main reason behind this bloody sectarian war, which resulted in the death of insurgents from both sides, but also cost many innocent civilians including women and children, to lose their lives. Since it is an ongoing war, there is no exact figure of casualties, but according to a report on CNN Web site, the number of civilians killed in Iraq in the first half of 2006 is 14,000.
Firas, who would only allow his first name to be printed, is an Iraqi-American engineer living in the U.S. for the past 25 years. He looks at the issue a bit differently. Firas said that the situation in Iraq was different before the collapse of late Saddam Hussein’s regime. He said, “There weren’t sectarian wars back then. They didn’t feel any difference.” But, he said that after the collapse of Hussein’s regime, Shiites became powerful, and this was not accepted by the Sunni minority. On the other hand, Firas said that the U.S. military force is not welcomed by all Iraqis. According to Firas, “Some people are upset with the presence of U.S. military because they have lost their friends and family members in the air strikes and bombings.”
As for the relations between Shiites and Sunnis in the U.S., Firas said, “It is friendly.” However, he admitted “There is some sensitivity, but both Shiite and Sunni understand the level of their argument and discussion.”
The Shiite and Sunni sectors did not exist before 632, the time when the Prophet Mohammad was alive. During this time, all Muslims were following one path. The sectarian division took place after the Prophet Mohammad’s death in 632.
Sunni Muslims agree with the position taken by many of the Prophet's companions—Imams, that the new leader should be elected from among those capable of the job. The Prophet Muhammad's close friend and advisor, Abu Bakr, became the first Caliph—the head of state in a Caliphate, and the title for the leader of the Islamic Ummah, which means successor or representative—of the Islamic Nation. The word "Sunni" in Arabic comes from a word meaning "one who follows the traditions of the Prophet."
Yet some Muslims share the belief that leadership should have stayed within the Prophet's own family, among those specifically appointed by him, or among Imams appointed by God Himself.
The main disagreement between Shiite and Sunni seem to be Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Mohammad. Shiites claim that Ali was the first rightly guided Caliph, while Sunnis regard him the fourth one in the row following Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman. Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali were the four closest companions of the Prophet Mohammad who run the Islamic state of the time after Prophet Mohammad’s death.
Despite the disagreement over the issue of the first Caliph of Islam, Shiite and Sunni Muslims were living in peace. They both followed their preferred practices. There were Shiites and Sunnis living together in many countries like Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, but there were no sectarian wars and killings. Even in Iraq, it wasn’t until early 2006 when the Al Aksa mosque was bombed, that sectarian violence exploded.
Chris Sheppard, a graduate student at ASU, served in Iraq twice. He said that the Iraqis were fighting the U.S. troops until the February of 2005, when he left Iraq. Sheppard said that when he was in Iraq he noticed different colors of flags in Shiite living areas. He admitted that back then he didn’t know what those flags meant, but he learned about it when he came to the U.S. Sheppard said, “It was Shiite’s pilgrimage, Karbala, Muharram.”
Muharram is the first month according to the Islamic Lunar calendar. The significance of this month lies in the fact that in this month the Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Mohammad and the son of Ali, was martyred along with his companions in Karbala. Shiites mourn this month by designing their mosques with flag of green, red, white and mostly black color. They recite Holy Quran and read rhythmic poems about the event of Karbala.
The flags are signs of Shiites pilgrimage, which they offered for the first time after the collapse of Hussein’s regime. This could be another reason for the sectarian war because in the time of late Saddam Hussein, Shiites were not allowed to perform such pilgrimage in the month of Muharram. The tension in Iraq cannot be solved easily. As Sheppard explains, “The Shiites want strong American presence because it is to their benefit,” while, “The Sunnis don’t want Americans on the soil.” Concerning the existence of American troops in Iraq, Sheppard said, “It is in America’s best interest right now.” Referring to American troops, he said, “They have created a mess, but it will become much more of a mess, if they pull out.”
Lately, the tension has spread out to parts of the U.S. A report in the Feb. 4, 2007 ediction of The New York Times said Sunnis broke the windows of Shiite owned businesses in Dearborn, Mich. Luckily no signs of such tensions and hatred have been observed in ASU or in the Valley.
Rema Nasaredden, a senior and the elected president for the Muslim Students Association (MSA) at ASU is a Sunni Muslim. Nasaredden says that from the time she came to ASU, she never remembers having any problems with Shiites. She said that MSA represents all Muslims and there are Shiites in the MSA. However, she admitted that there are no Shiites on the board of directors of MSA. But she said that the election for the board is based on the members’ involvement in the MSA’s activities, not on their religious affiliation. Nasardden said, “There is no sectarian preference in the election process in MSA.”
Shifa Al-Khatib, A Palestinian Muslim focusing on Justice Studies, at ASU is so neutral about the religious sectors that she doesn’t know the difference between the two. She said, “I have Muslim friends, but I don’t know if they are Shiite or Sunni.” Al-Khatib said, “I feel bad to ask people about their religious sectors. I think it is too personal.”
Everyone interviewed noted that the general solution to sectarian conflict is to educate Muslims of both sectors about the similarities of the two sectors. As Ismail said, “Muslims from both sectors must notice the similarities between the two sectors rather than focusing on differences.”


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice story Noori - I love the pic of the child.

- cj

7:05 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home