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What factors determine if one is a Sunni or a Shia?

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Philosoraptor Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-29-06 05:16 PM
Original message
What factors determine if one is a Sunni or a Shia?
Serious question, cause I'm not too bright, is it mainly heredity that determines if one is a Sunni or a Shia in Iraq? They seem to hate each other mightily, and their feuds and the feuds of other sects have been going on for quite some time now, is it simply a matter of where you were born? Or whose family you were born into?

I sure wish there were some way to help these people solve their new and ancient conflicts, but I don't see how America's military can accomplish that, or help them in any logical way.

I've heard the various explanations as to why they fight, and I've listened to cloned retired generals and 'experts' drone on and on till my brains turn to slush, and none of it makes any sense to me, I must be too stupid to understand it all.

I just want our people out of there, immediately, if not sooner. I know why we are really there, and it ain't to spread freedom and democracy, or help the poor Iraqis. I know dick cheney is making a lotta money off of all this, but isn't there a easier, nicer way to make big bucks for Christ's sake?
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Cooley Hurd Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-29-06 05:18 PM
Response to Original message
1. The Wikipedia entry on Islamic denominations:
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burrowowl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-29-06 05:21 PM
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2. Go to River Bend's latest post, Dec. 29
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EST Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-29-06 05:22 PM
Response to Original message
3. There is a number of more subtle differences, but the big one,
or the one that stands out for me is the question of leadership.
The Shia believe that leadership must be chosen only from those who can trace their families back to Muhammad.
Sunnis believe the most qualified, rather than line of succession, should determine leadership.
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Kali Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-29-06 05:22 PM
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4. in a real innaccurate analogy it is like when the protestants split from the
Catholic church. Still Muslims, but have different beliefs about who should be in charge of deciding things.
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Totallybushed Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-29-06 05:22 PM
Response to Original message
5. I suppose that
it mainly has to do with what your family beliefs are. Sort of like in the US, you may be born i nto a Baptist, Catholic, Jewish, etc. family. Still, there are probably some conversions, same as here. But I don't know that. Over there, you are also born into an extended family, a clan, that is your support group, and social safety net. Conversion would probably cause you to be oucast.

As far the differences in their beliefs, I think they have to do with who is the rightful successor to Mohammed as caliph. I understand the debate was pretty fierce in previous centuries, and a lot of blood, hatred, and revenge has built up since then. As to their theological differences, other than the rightful caliph, I don't know. Sh'ia expect the coming of the Mahdi to set things to rights. I don't know if Sunni do or not.

Perhaps one of the Muslim posters on this site can tell you more.
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Eugene Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-29-06 05:23 PM
Response to Original message
6. The big tragedy is that Iraq did not have a history of sectarian conflict.
Edited on Fri Dec-29-06 05:25 PM by Eugene
Sunnis and Shiites lived side by side in Bagdhad for 1000 years,
Even though the Sunni Arabs were favored under Saddam's rule.
There was extensive intermarriage before BushCo handed Iraq
to the the gunmen and the bombers.
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etherealtruth Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-29-06 05:28 PM
Response to Reply #6
9. Don't forget that there was a significant (not huge)
...Christian population; there was a Jewish population (not huge or even large, but there)as well
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ck4829 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-29-06 05:25 PM
Response to Original message
7. If you see a Muslim walking down the street...
Chances are that they are a Sunni, Shia are uncommon, but you can easily find them in Iraq and Iran.
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MrCoffee Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-29-06 05:26 PM
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8. Aren't there Sunni and Shia "family names"?
I seem to recall seeing some interviews with Iraqis who had fled to Jordan saying that their wife or kids have names that would set them apart in some way, and so they left to avoid being sectarian targets. That, and that they lived in a neighborhood that was predominantly Sunni or Shia.

Apart from the theological differences, are there certain names that are traditional to one or the other sect?
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ayeshahaqqiqa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-29-06 05:31 PM
Response to Original message
10. Culture, mainly
I really can't add that much to the excellent posts here, but I would say, especially in the Middle East, you are whatever your extended family is. There have been clans and tribes in that area of the world for generations.
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