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Satya Pal Singh. Editorial. September 24. 2015-Shia-Sunni


Satya Pal Singh. Editorial.XXIV.IX.XV 






Satya Pal Singh-fnbworld By Satya Pal Singh



Lucknow Imambara-fnbworld


The Muslim community's 'Shoulder to Shoulder' bold initiative may appear to be a small development coming from a non-metropolitan city of Lucknow, but its import is far wider, internationally significant, immensely inspiring and extraordinarily conciliatory for the Shia-Sunni sects of homologous origin. That on Eid ul-Zuha tomorrow, the Imambara Sibtainabad will host in UP's capital a welcome event that will see Shias and Sunnis jointly offering namaz, will be a gesture of rare community goodwill and the right response to Allah's wishes from the people who pray several times during the day. Muslims deserve accolades for this remarkable feat on the auspicious occasion of Eid. 

While there is no word on whether the joint namaz is inspired by an international event, it is believed to have been drawn from Kuwait's Grand Mosque where hundreds of Shia and Sunni Muslims prayed together for national unity recently, vowing to block any attempt to stir sectarian division a week after an Islamic State staged the country’s deadliest militant attack. The Sunni group had claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing on a Shi’ite mosque that killed 27 and wounded more than 200. 


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This small beginning in Lucknow sets the tone for an epoch-making trend for much wider celebrations on this line that potentially promises to place an effective countermove to the intra-community hate regime that has been the cause of much senseless strife and bloodshed within the Muslim society for centuries. It sounds strange that the Sunni, Shia split that occurred after Prophet Muhammad's death in the year 632, involving dispute over the succession to Muhammad as a caliph of the Islamic community, should have  eventually led to the Battle of Siffin. The continuing hatred and bitterness further increased after the Battle of Karbala, which resulted in extermination of Hussein ibn Ali and his family at the hands of the ruling Umayyad Caliph Yazid.

The sequence of the cries for revenge that subsequently chased psyches of both the sects caused an interminable schism within the Islamic community. Even though outwardly it may appear that the Quran remains the uniting force as all Muslim groups consider it divine, the fact remains that the fight and the unending split over religious practices, customs pertaining to jurisprudence, etc, have persisted despite sporadic attempts to bring about peaceful reconciliation of the warring sects. But the problem primarily remains centred on hadith, the body of traditions relating to Mohammad, supplementary to the Islam's divine book.

In a way, the Shia-Sunni ties that traditionally have seen more conflicts than cooperation appear to  have moved in a positive direction, with this citizen-led Lucknow initiative throwing up a vision of happier times. It is obvious the religious heads behind this move have found a common ground, focusing on undisputable similarities between the two sects. Sectarian violence that has plagued the wide range of nationalities, from Pakistan to Yemen, is doing much harm to the entire Middle East. The continuing war for political power and influence has terribly hit the countries like Iraq, Bahrain, Syria and a few others. ISIS, the present-day growing threat to the peaceful world, survives because of the Shia-Sunni conflict. ISIS fighters may be Sunnis, but they gain strength, oxygen and the fire power in the name of this conflict. Iraq's sectarian divide, for instance, is more political than religious, but it survives and gains intensity on the Shia-Sunni factor.

How could a Sunni Saddam Hussein rule a Shia-majority Iraq? He did spread a false notion that Sunnis constituted majority in Iraq. Thus, years after the downfall of the dictator in 2003, Sunni operators of ISIS still believe they deserve to rule Iraq. The US installed a pseudo-democracy in Iraq that empowered Shia majority. In 2013, Shias used control over the police force to arbitrarily detain and torture Sunni protestors pressing for greater representation in government. That explains how rebellion and hostilities are unwittingly created, rather than a climate of understanding and peaceful co-existence.

Sectarian conflicts in the Middle East are increasingly turning devastating. With continuing Shia-Sunni violence in Iraq and the sectarian divisions hampering political reconciliation in Lebanon, the Sunni Gulf states menacingly face the restive Shia minority. The Shia-Sunni conflict, that defines the politics of Middle Eastern bitterness, has gradually spread to Sunni-Muslim majority Pakistan where Shias constitute a minuscule percentage, may be downwards of 20 per cent of the total population. But ironically, Islamabad is not ready to accept that it is plagued by sectarian violence. A Muslim scholar, in a presentation sometime back, stated that "thousands of Pakistani Shias have died in sectarian violence."

If one were to agree with Pakistan's contention that Sunnis and Shias in the country don't hate each other, then how come, a non-sectarian nation suffers so much sectarian strife? What does the violence in parts of cities like Karachi, Quetta and in the provinces of Punjab and Northwest Frontier indicate? Has this Islamic state, then, become an extended entity for the Sunni-Shia violence of the Middle East? Whichever way it is analyzed, there is nothing to show that Pakistan is free from sectarian conflicts.

Pakistan as our immediate neighbor is engaged in an internecine war with us. For the sake of peace, every sensible citizen of India wants that Muslims close their sectarian ranks and herald a new era of peace and cooperation with the Hindus and other communities of the country. The Lucknow move is significant in view of the growing sectarian strife in the Islamic world. The Haider-Hanif core group of Lucknow appears to believe that things may gradually improve if this trend of goodwill, candor and bonhomie sinks into the hearts of both Shias and Sunnis. But such initiatives work only when these are practised constantly on a large scale and in much wider areas. It's a symbolic start in India. Let it be  followed elsewhere in the interest of world peace!



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