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What drives Sunni-Shi'i Sectarianism?

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We seem to have accepted that Islam’s two most important sects are locked in a somehow constant, deadly, and global struggle. Shi’is and Sunnis currently clash in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain. Instances of sectarian violence plague places as diverse as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Nigeria and Indonesia. This conflict-ridden relationship stands in marked contrast to the height of Shi’i-Sunni rapprochement in the 1950s. Back then, venerable Sunni institutions such as Cairo’s al-Azhar University were willing to accept the Shi’is as just another manifestation of the plurality of schools of law Sunni Islam has known for centuries. This talk will explore how and why these parameters have changed so fundamentally over the last 60 years. We will explore how a broad range of factors including religious polemics, the Iranian Revolution, and the toppling of Saddam Hussain’s regime in 2003 have all conspired to lead us into the present gloomy situation.

This talk is part of the Caius MCR/SCR research talks series.

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