Iraq War Tests Unity Among U.S. Muslims

February 15, 2007

Author: Tim Gaynor

Source: Reuters

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Leaders of the U.S. Islamic community are fearful that sectarian slaughter tearing Shi'ite and Sunni communities apart in Iraq is testing unity among Muslim immigrants in the United States.

Imams, analysts and community leaders say the daily round of truck bombings, kidnappings and slaughter pitching former Sunni and Shi'ite neighbors into civil war in Baghdad has raised tension among Muslim immigrants nationwide.

There are an estimated 6 to 7 million Muslims in the United States, of whom some 2.5 million are immigrants. The majority of them are Sunnis, who have lived peaceably alongside Shi'ite neighbors in cities from California to New York for decades.

However, sectarian tensions appeared to flare in Detroit in January, when vandals attacked two Shi'ite mosques and several businesses, following the execution of former Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, at the hands of Shi'ite hangmen. No arrests were made.

Analysts say there are also signs of growing sectarianism among Muslim students on U.S. campuses, where in recent months some Sunnis and Shi'ites have formed, or are considering forming, separate student associations.