[AS ALWAYS PLEASE GO TO THE LINK TO READ GOOD ARTICLES IN FULL: HELP SHAPE ALGORITHMS (and conversations) THAT EMPOWER DECENCY, DIGNITY, JUSTICE & PEACE... and hopefully Palestine]http://www.caabu.org/news/news/middle-east-identity-politics-more-sunni-shia-schism-caabu-director-chris-doyles-letter-fi
Published in the Financial Times Friday 2nd August 2013.
Sir, In the whole debate about sectarianism in the Middle East all too often the issue is oversimplified, distilled into a centuries-old Sunni-Shia religious schism (“Battlelines drawn”, Analysis, August 1).
This is flawed. Across the Middle East there is a dangerous breakout of identity politics of which Sunni and Shia identities are just two. Divisions have taken ethnic, religious, ideological and tribal lines. There are tensions between Arab, Turk and Kurd, between Berber and Arab in north Africa.
Many of the religious clashes are not Sunni-Shia but between “secular” and hardliners. In Egypt, it is often Muslim-Christian. In Israel, there is increased racist rhetoric between Jew and Arab. This atomisation of identity is worse in countries such as Iraq, Syria and Lebanon where the state is weak.
All of this has been exacerbated because of the threats to existing state structures and regimes, as a result of the Arab uprisings and the increased power struggle between Iran (and its allies) and Saudi Arabia. Sectarian politics has frequently been used to shore up various regimes’ positions, notably in Syria and in Bahrain. What scares so many regimes is the possibility of a united opposition, so every opportunity is taken to split them by identity including sect.
The only solution is to push firmly towards political systems that emphasise equal citizenship and rights where nobody is excluded on the basis of identity. Regrettably all too often in the west, we have failed to do that.