Increasing Tensions, Divisions Amongst Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims in the US

March 8, 2006

Source: Beliefnet

Wire Service: RNS

On March 8, 2006 Religion News Service reported, "Sensitive to U.S. pluralistic traditions and forced to work together as fellow Islamic minorities, American Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims have avoided the violent strife that has plagued Iraq and other parts of the Muslim world... Divisions have widened worldwide since the golden dome of the Al-Askariya Mosque in Samarra, Iraq, was blown up Feb. 22. Two descendants of Islam's Prophet Muhammad are buried there, making it one of Shi'ite (also called Shia) Islam's holiest shrines... While the Muslim-on-Muslim killing has yet to reach the United States, many Shi'ites believe the hatred already has, even before the recent violence in Iraq. For the past several years, Shi'ites have marched through New York City's Manhattan during the Muslim month of Muharram to commemorate the killing of Ali's younger son, Hussein, the third imam, in Karbala, Iraq, in 680. The historic event is regarded as the definitive split between Shi'ites and Sunnis. When Shi'ites marched in New York this year, on Feb. 5, they were met by protesters claiming to be from a Brooklyn-based group calling itself the Islamic Thinkers Society, which denounced the ritual and passed out fliers condemning Shiites as heretics... Following the Feb. 22 destruction of the Shi'ite shrine in Iraq, some Sunni imams in the U.S. have not only condemned the attacks but also volunteered to establish fundraisers to rebuild the Samarra shrine. American Shi'ites have welcomed these overtures, expressing hope that such attacks ultimately will unite rather than divide the two communities."