Area's Sunnis and Shiites Keep A Delicate Balance Across Divides

March 8, 2007

Author: Pamela Constable

Source: The Washington Post

In its modest way, the Muslim Community School in Montgomery County is a tiny bulwark against the hate-filled sectarian violence that has ripped Iraq apart, threatens to divide the Muslim world and has created tensions among Muslim immigrants in the United States.

Each weekday, 125 Shiite and Sunni children from 18 countries pray side by side, share lunches of chicken dogs and cantaloupe, and study under teachers from both sects. Girls are allowed to wear bright-colored headscarves as well as traditional black or white ones. On Fridays, the weekly sermon is given in English, Arabic and Persian.

"We do have a few differences, but at the end of the day, we share the same morals and values. We hate to see war and people dying. We are friends, and we trust each other," said Kadiatu Bah, 17, a senior and Sunni Muslim from Guinea who plans to attend Catholic University in the fall.

"When I go to greet another Muslim, I don't ask if the person is Sunni or Shia. These divisions are political, not religious," said Fatema Mohammadi, 16, a senior and a Shiite from Iran. "At our noon prayer, Sunnis pray behind Shias. At afternoon prayer, Shias pray behind Sunnis. For us, there is absolutely no difference."