Most of the bombs exploding in Baghdad today were in Shiite neighborhoods, according to the Associated Press, which suggests strongly
that adherents of the two major sects of Islam are about to start enthusiastically killing one another again.
The former President of the United States didn’t see it this way, but it always seemed clear to me that our dabbling in Iraq would ultimately enable a civil war. I hope I’m wrong, but the 60 or so fatalities today are not a good sign.
Not all of the antagonism between Shiite and Sunni traces back 1,000-plus years, but much of it does. While a similar dispute would not inspire most of us to learn how to make a car bomb, here’s a rundown on the original split, as outlined by the History News Network of George Mason University:
The Islam religion was founded by Mohammed in the seventh century. In 622 he founded the first Islamic state, a theocracy in Medina, a city in western Saudi Arabia located north of Mecca. There are two branches of the religion he founded.
The Sunni branch believes that the first four caliphs–Mohammed’s successors–rightfully took his place as the leaders of Muslims. They recognize the heirs of the four caliphs as legitimate religious leaders. These heirs ruled continuously in the Arab world until the break-up of the Ottoman Empire following the end of the First World War.
Shiites, in contrast, believe that only the heirs of the fourth caliph, Ali, are the legitimate successors of Mohammed.
Again, there’s more to it than that. But that’s the base coat on the wall.
About 90 percent of the world’s Muslims are Sunni, and about quadrillionth of a percent actually blow stuff up. That tiny group does not include the Muslim families whose kids go to your kids’ school in Troy or Farmington Hills, which will be a useful fact to hold onto if Iraq continues to disintegrate.