Omid Memarian

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

"Can You Tell a Sunni From a Shiite?"

A few days ago, in a small gathering of experts of Middle East and people who have strong concern to make a difference in the world, somebody asked, "How can you identify a Shiite (Shia) from a Sunni guy?” Basically it was a simple question. However, in my opinion, it was very interesting. Because there are many pieces in the newspapers which talk about the fight between these two groups in Iraq and how a sort of micro-conflict tribal is happening there, like the same happened in Lebanon early 80th.

"When you look at a Shiite Muslim, you can see they have ring, but Sunnis don’t have", said one of the audience. "I live somewhere that hangs out with some Shiite people." Many Muslim use "ring", like the agate. But it was not the answer. Some people brought up different answer. But at the end a lady said that how we can identify a Protestants Christian and a Catholic one? How can we identify a Jewish man and a Christian in the street? Simple as that...

That's why I like that question. Questions like this, target the common understanding about the things that we are facing everyday but we get no in-depth information about them. Also, it shows how media make a perception of realities for the public opinion...

Bt the way, I read "Can You Tell a Sunni From a Shiite?', an Op-Ed piece in New York Times yesterday. How is it?

“A few weeks ago, I took the F.B.I.’s temperature again. At the end of a long
interview, I asked Willie Hulon, chief of the bureau’s new national security
branch, whether he thought that it was important for a man in his position to
know the difference between Sunnis and Shiites. “Yes, sure, it’s right to know
the difference,” he said. “It’s important to know who your targets

That was a big advance over 2005. So next I asked him if he
could tell me the difference. He was flummoxed. “The basics go back to their
beliefs and who they were following,” he said. “And the conflicts between the
Sunnis and the Shia and the difference between who they were following.”

O.K., I asked, trying to help, what about today? Which one is Iran
— Sunni or Shiite? He thought for a second. “Iran and Hezbollah,” I prompted.
“Which are they?”

He took a stab: “Sunni.”


Al Qaeda? “Sunni.”


AND to his
credit, Mr. Hulon, a distinguished agent who is up nights worrying about Al
Qaeda while we safely sleep, did at least know that the vicious struggle between
Islam’s Abel and Cain was driving Iraq into civil war. But then we pay him to
know things like that, the same as some members of Congress.” (Continue)


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