The West must understand the divide between Sunni and Shia

The truth is that Muslims kill other Muslims for doctrinal reasons based on their faith rather than through terrorism.

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CHARLOTTE, N.C., May 29, 2017 – To even begin to understand Islam as it exists in the contemporary world, we must first learn more about the basic divide between the beliefs and practices of Sunni and Shiite Muslims. In its purest form, this religious schism is simple. But, as with so many aspects of Islam, it doesn’t take long for the scenario to become cloudy and incomprehensible.

John Hayward has written a lengthy column for “Breitbart News” explaining the Sunni/Shia split. If every Westerner would take just ten minutes to read Hayward’s explanation, it would go a long way toward comprehending the Muslim world while understanding the inanity of the arguments espoused by the press, politicians and the politically correct.

Among the favorite myths promoted by virtually everyone in the U.S. today including presidents Trump and Obama, is the claim that the greatest percentage of the victims of Muslim hatred are Muslims themselves. Some estimates say the number of Muslim deaths amounts to over 95 percent of the worldwide total.

As with almost everything in the Muslim world, it is important to read between the lines of such statements. That’s because, while such statements may be largely true as far as they go, they are often incomplete in important ways. The truth is that Muslims kill other Muslims for doctrinal reasons based on their faith rather than through terrorism. Such violence is the result of military conflict and government crackdown on religious minorities.


While the Western world views Sunnis and Shiites as being Muslim, hardliners on both sides of this internal religious debate frequently consider the opposition to be non-believers to the same degree as Christians and Jews are regarded as nonbelievers. It is that divide that most Westerners fail to take into consideration.

Simply put, when Muhammad died in the seventh century, there were two schools of thought concerning his successor(s). Sunnis believed the new “caliph” should be elected. In that process, they chose Abu Bakr, who was a close friend of Muhammad as well as being the father of the prophet’s favorite wife.

Shiites, on the other hand, believe strongly that Islamic leadership should extend directly from the lineage of Muhammad’s descendants.

On the surface, that core difference forms the basis of the now 14 century-long conflict that initially arise from the tribal politics of the desert in the 7th century. Keep in mind, however, that even today the tribal aspects of that culture still exist and the laws of the desert remain embedded in the thinking of the people of the region.

As John Hayward states “Western politicians, eager to portray Islam as a ‘religion of peace,’ speak of Muslims as homogenous. At the hard core of political correctness, Islam is treated more like a race than a religion.”

Therein lies the rub. If the West does not understand what the enemy is all about, then how can it make logical decisions about how best to deal with the crisis?

“In truth, there are Shiite Muslims who do not think Sunnis count as Muslim at all, and vice versa,” reiterates Hayward.

First and foremost, the West must shed itself of the ridiculous notion that Islam is a “religion of peace.” It never has been a religion of peace, and until it reforms itself from within, it never will be.

The laws of the desert still exist today in the world of Middle Eastern Islam. Modern buildings, luxury automobiles, airline transportation and air conditioning may have become part of the fabric of today’s Middle East. But the core of the belief system developed by Muhammad still continues to be central to the heart of Arab thinking. Muslim societies are among the most paranoid groups in the world, always looking over their shoulders and forever living in fear.

Writes Hayward, “This is not a minor dispute over the life and times of a long-dead historical personage, but a profound question of religious legitimacy.”

Hayward is correct in his assessment. Yet, while the problem cannot and will not be resolved by the West, it is incumbent upon us to understand it in order to better manage it.

While Sunnis and Shias comprise the majority of the Muslim world, there are other sects as well which further muddy the big picture. Sufis, for example, sometimes say they are neither Sunni nor Shiite, but they are also just as likely to claim they are one or the other. How does the West cope with that aspect of the faith?

Furthermore, with its mystical approach to Islam positioned somewhere in the middle ot the Sunni / Shiite polarity, Sufism is also a minority belief system, meaning that today, Sufis often endure abuse from both sides.

True, most Muslims are peaceful members of most societies, even if their hearts are not necessarily “peace loving.” But to state over and over and over again that Islam is a “religion of peace” does nothing to eradicate the problem of global terrorism.

Islam was born in the desert by a man who some have even claimed was insane. He was a warrior who fought more than 80 battles during the last ten years of his life.

In these last stages of Muhammad’s life, there was nothing that was even remotely “peaceful” about it. His followers frequently carry his core beliefs in the Middle East today with intensity and militancy. It is time to start understanding what that means if we are to survive the current era intact..

About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.

Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)

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