Sectarian Violence Embroils Iraqi Muslims, but in Houston the Focus is Common Ground

February 23, 2007

Author: Barbara Karkabi

Source: Houston Chronicle

Ask Rodwan Saleh if he is a Sunni or a Shia and his reply comes quickly.

"I am a Muslim," says Saleh, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, an umbrella organization that includes both groups. "Muslims should always identify themselves that way."

Other Houston Muslims respond similarly.

Business consultant and Iranian native Ali Khalili replied: "I was born in a supposedly Shia family and country. But if anyone asks me, I answer: 'I am whatever my holy prophet was. I am a Muslim.' "

In stark contrast to the daily sectarian bloodshed that has gripped Iraq, Sunnis and Shias generally enjoy good relations in Houston.

When Shahem Barazi, a Sunni, meets with his Shia friends, he doesn't discuss politics.