Q&A Friday #57: Sunnis vs. Shiites

Question: “Do you know the difference between Sunni & Shia muslims?
Which one is the majority in the world?
Which one is the majority in Iraq?
Which one is Al Qaeda?

I’m not trying to make you look foolish here, since I had to double check the answers myself. Just trying to shed light on the fact that lots of Americans don’t know the answers to these questions, including some folks who are running the war, and that is scary.” — Tom_pinko_Delay

Answer: Al-Qaeda is Sunni.
Hezbollah is Shia.
The majority of Muslims in Iraq are Shia.
The majority of Muslims in the world are Sunni.

Here’s a part of my 2nd interview with Robert Spencer that does a good job of explaining the difference between Sunnis and Shiites:

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The Shiia and Sunni (branches of Islam) came about in a dispute over succession to Muhammad. Is that correct?

Yes, exactly.

Can you explain to people how that came about?

The prophet Muhammad died rather suddenly and he did not leave clear instructions as to his successors, as to who would succeed him as leaders of the community. The Party of Ali it was called or the Shi’at Ali believed that only a relative of Muhammad could legitimately take over his role as the leader of the Muslim community that he created. The other party believed that it was not necessary that somebody be a member of the Prophet’s family, but only that the best man be chosen.

So Ali was not chosen, was passed over for the first three times in the choice for the succession to the leadership, and finally was chosen but was rather shortly thereafter murdered and his sons also were murdered. … These became the cardinal incidents for Shiite Islam and are celebrated today, yearly, in extravagant displays of mourning of which you’ve seen pictures. …

… People cutting themselves with swords …

… Yes, people cutting their heads with swords in mourning for Hussein, the son of Ali. Really, there’s not much difference between Sunni and Shiite practice of Islam although the Shiites do tend to be more spiritually minded–have more of a mystical tradition–and are certainly more emotional and extravagant in their piety and have a little bit more of an emphasis on, let’s say, the cult of the Saint. But otherwise, certainly in terms of jihad warfare against infidels, there’s not any significant difference between the Sunnis and Shiites.

If you understand all that then you have a better handle on it than Silvestre Reyes, the Democratic House Intelligence Chairman.

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