Sunni and Shi'a Muslims More United Than U.S. Government Portrays

June 27, 2004

Source: News-Leader

Wire Service: AP

On June 27, 2004 News-Leader/AP reported, "Ahmed Shammar, a Shiite Muslim, prays in a Sunni Muslim mosque because it's close to his house. His wife, Shatha, a Sunni, improvises her own daily prayers, mixing Shiite and Sunni rituals. That she and her husband are from different sects of Islam means nothing to Shatha. 'He's a Muslim and I'm a Muslim,' she says, wearing a pale green headscarf that stylishly matches her blouse. The two were colleagues at a government office when they married in a Shiite ceremony in 1990. Their three children go to Christian schools, where they are also taught the Quran, Islam's holy book. 'I don't know the difference between Sunnis and Shiites,' said Mustafa, their 12-year-old son. 'I don't want to know the difference.' While the Sunni-Shiite split is bitter in some Muslim areas, Mustafa's attitude is widespread in Iraq, where intermarriage between the two Muslim sects is common, especially in Baghdad. Also, tribal ties often outweigh sectarian differences in Iraq, and several important tribes — through the twists of history — have come to include both Sunnis and Shiites. This intricate religious mosaic seems largely lost on U.S. occupation authorities. Citing the repression of Shiites and Kurds by Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated regime, and some Sunnis' resentment at the loss of privileges with Saddam's ouster, U.S. officials have warned that Iraq could slip into religious warfare once the American-led troops leave the country. Not necessarily, say Iraqis. Although they fear chaos and further deterioration in security, they generally dismiss forecasts of civil war between religious sects. They say the Americans are using the specter of religious fighting to frighten people and lay the groundwork for prolonging the occupation."