Few Disclaimers First:
- I am not accusing all Shi’ites of being double two faced sectarians. Some of them are truly very decent and honest people.
- Neither Shi’ites are devils nor Sunnis are angels.
- Despite being a Sunni myself, I am not going to discuss anything about religion as such, this is not my current concern at all and it is completely pointless to discuss religion in such matter because both things don’t relate to each other.
- Don’t ask me for ‘proof’, most of what I am bringing here is from trusted people (including some honest Shi’ites) that I would never share names for the sake of their security and safety. Use your logical thinking if you have any.
- Therefore, the discussion here is factual and logical, it is about politics, events and history. So please don’t bother yourself by accusing me as being extremist or anything like that, also please don’t write any Quranic verse and don’t quote someone saying something because that’s not my point.
- What’s written here represents only my own personal humble opinion which is based on my observations of current events. I don’t care if you agree with it or not.
- I harbor no ill feelings toward Shi’ites even if my observations are very negative, I still consider them as our brothers and fellow humans who can be right or wrong.
A) Historical Introduction:
It really baffles me when someone makes a wild statement that Shi’itism started since the beginning of Islam. There was no such thing called Shi’itism when Prophet Mohammed started to preach his people about Islam and Allah. At least he wasn’t saying that ‘Ali wali Allah’/'Ali is the custodian of God’ during each prayer calling.
When Prophet Mohammed died and Muslim elders discussed who would take his place as the leader of Muslims and appointed Abu Bakr as their first Caliph. Imam Ali (Prophet Mohammed’s young cousin) was out of the question because he was much younger than the other candidates and Arabs usually prefer and select an old man to be their leader. Added to this Ali consented to the elders’ choice and never opposed Abu Bakr. Actually Ali was a solider under his command and later under Omar’s command. However nowadays Shi’ites argue that this was the breaking point but fail to provide a recorded event that make their claims legitimate, instead they resort to very ridiculous tales about how the first Caliphs shared a mutual and unexplained hatred towards Ali and his wife Fatima (the eldest daughter of Prophet Mohammed), most of these stories are full of exaggerations and usually contradict themselves.
The breaking point was around the death of Imam Hussein, the son of Imam Ali and grandson of Prophet Mohammed, when the 2nd Ummayid Caliph Yazid sent his army from Syria to Iraq to oppress Imam Hussein’s rebellion against him, he was killed in the ensuing battle ironically by one of his followers and supporters (most of his army deserted the battle or turned against him). Anyway still there wasn’t anything called Shi’ite after the immediate aftermath of this unfortunate event.
Descendants of Imam Ali were in constant conflict with the Muslim authorities of Ummayid and Abbasid Caliphs, many of them were either hiding or on the run from the Caliphs. Some of them either ended up imprisoned or killed. The reason for this persecution is that they mostly asked people to make them Caliphs and most of their supporters were spies or traitors against them anyway. However their religious beliefs and habits were completely in line with the Sunni beliefs, actually one of the 4 main Sunni scholars, Imam Abu Hanifa, was a faithful student of Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq. Ironically modern Ja’afirsts (main and largest branch of the Shi’ite sect) disagree a lot with this man and consider his teachings as blasphemous and his followers non-believers, using questionable and bogus sources claiming that it was written by Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq himself.
After many years of oppression, there were many secret radical groups that claimed to be in support of Mohammed/Ali/Hussein descendants started to appearing. The most notable one is the Isma’alism cult that shared many beliefs with the Shi’ite sect and is one of its many roots.
The modern Shi’ite traditions, beliefs and habits however can be mostly traced to the Safavid dynasty which started in Azerbaijan, and then took all of Iran/Persia by force, the first Safavid ruler Ismail I made the Shi’ism as the official religion in his state and forced millions of Sunnis to convert into by massacring all of their scholars and clerics. Also when he conquered Baghdad he massacred many Sunni Muslims ‘until the Tigris river became red because of their blood’ and also destroyed the tomb of Imam Abu Hanifa. Converting Sunni Arab tribes in Iraq started at this point when they were roughly 75% of the population.
Despite that, when the Sunni Ottomans conquered Iraq and pushed the Safavids back to Iran, they didn’t force the newly converted Shi’ites to revert back to Sunni Islam. Quite the opposite they gave them the freedom to conduct their practices and kept their shrines intact. This policy remained for centuries and never changed.
B) Current Crisis:
The usual claim made by Shi’ites is that they are forbidden from conducting their religious practices and teaching/ preaching their brand of Islam. Sometimes they go to the extent that the Sunni authorities suppress them, discriminates and oppresses them. this is collectively is know to be ‘Madhilumia’ which can be translated to ‘the wronged group’.
Therefore to dispel these claims I am going here to talk about Iraq exclusively since I am an Iraqi that lived in Iraq for the most part of my life and had my own experiences, I am going to list many points they claim as discrimination:
- Sunni authorities won’t let us practice our religion: a very known and wild claim always made to the Western media. Which is pretty much untrue. Shi’ites were practicing their religion freely including their massive pilgrimages up until 1968 when the Ba’athists took power, and the reason was quite clear: no political demonstrations are allowed against the government, especially that these pilgrimages were always penetrated by Iranian extremists and trouble makers who made many unrests and harassment against the ‘non-believers’ aka Sunnis.
- Sunni authorities won’t let us represent ourselves politically: this is untrue since the establishment of the Iraqi state in 1920 who gave the right to everybody to enter the parliament, and there were ministers and prime ministers who were Shi’ites. After the fall of the Kingdom, the first dictator Abdulkareem Qasim was a Shi’ite and he gave great freedoms to Communists in the country (they were mostly Shi’ites too). They were allowed to attack Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad such as Adhamia, to the extent that they were supplied with army rifles and guns while Sunnis had to defend themselves with sticks and rocks only. They weren’t content with just this, they took a train (dubbed sarcastically as the Train of Peace) to Kerkuk and Mosul in northern Iraq and committed horrible massacres against the Sunni and Christian populations. After Qarim’s execution by Nassirsts and Ba’athists, Shi’ites were still allowed to take important roles in the Iraqi society and government. I am going to discuss their position during the Ba’athist period (including Saddam’s reign) shortly.
- Harsh treatment from the authorities: It happened few times but it wasn’t pointed to Shi’ites as a group but against their terrorist organizations such as Islamic Da’wa party (which is now the ruling party in Iraq with Maliki as its head), they were attacking government facilities, military bases, universities, Sunni mosques, Christian churches. The problem with how the Ba’athist regime handled the situation was limited capital punishment to people who had Iranian roots, few were executed, some were imprisoned and many were forcefully deported to either Iran or Syria. In 1991 the Shi’ite uprising in the south caused serious and ample hate crimes against not only Sunnis but also Shi’ite government workers, add to that widespread murders, looting, sabotage and even rape. The authorities used very harsh methods to suppress the wide spread crimes and in the process many innocent Shi’ites were killed, this was very unfortunate and in my opinion could have been avoided.
- The question of the alleged Shi’ite mass graves is still a very controversial matter, Shi’ites claim that these graves contain Shi’ites killed during 1991 crackdown of uprising. However some argue that these were civilians killed by thugs and also army soldiers who got caught while retreating from Kuwait and then executed, this was proved by two things: testimony of Najaf’s main hospital director who claimed that they had to bury those bodies during the chaos and the burials were overseen by Shi’ite clerics, the doctor also claimed that he has documents to prove this but got killed before sending it to the media. The other proof is the khaki colored military uniform that was worn by many of these buried corpses. Ironically Saddam accepted to pardon many of those people after the Shi’ite Arab tribes in the south pleaded him to let their sons go.
- We couldn’t teach our brand of faith: Another false claim, Najaf’s howza (The Shi’ite religious school/college that trains scholars and clerics) were never ever shutdown by anyone, it is the place where Muqtada al-Sadr and many other radical Shi’ite clerics got their education from.
- Sunni authorities didn’t give us a chance to have proper public education: A rather stupid claim, how then can one explain that there are so many Shi’ite doctors, engineers, scientists (especially in nuclear energy), lawyers and teachers/professors? One day I was in a taxi and the driver claimed that Saddam prevented his son from entering the medical college, turned out that he didn’t get enough high schools grades to be eligible to enter medical college. This is a usual way to blame Saddam and Sunnis about almost everything, even an alien invasion from Mars.
- Authorities always kept us poor, sick and ignorant: Then how come there are many Shi’ite rich merchants, landlords, businessmen and so on? How come there are many hospitals (mostly build by the Ba’athist regime during Saddam’s reign) in Shi’ite cities? Who ordered to build schools in the marshes other than Saddam Hussein himself?
C) A look about how Saddam treated Shi’ites:
The usual lies that we heard and still hear in Western and American media are Saddam was a racist and sectarian Sunni Arab who oppressed Kurds and Shi’ites whenever he could. The reality was quite the opposite, Saddam Hussein was not just a secular man but also close to being an atheist (there is an old video recording of him during a meeting with the Ba’athist high command where he angrily telling one of his comrades that he doesn’t need to go to mosque to pray and ask Allah for what he needs because Ba’ath and himself as its leader could and that’s enough for everybody).
Saddam Hussein would let anybody to take a part in the government regardless of their religious or racial backgrounds if they follow his very simple rules:
- You shouldn’t talk against him or his regime in public.
- You aren’t a member of the Communist party (Communists were no longer friends with Ba’athists since 1980s because they sided with the Iranians) or any parties that has foreign ties (such as Da’wa part which were established in Iran and sponsored by the Shah then Khomeini).
- A mandatory Ba’ath party membership especially if you want to reach very senior positions, but despite that mandatory rule there were many exceptions.
Therefore, there were many Shi’ite, Kurdish and even Christian ministers in Saddam’s cabinet. They were allowed to join the army, republican guards, security forces, police, anti-crime units and even intelligence. Even Iraqi Jews were allowed to work in the government and were allowed to attend public schools and universities.
I would like to add here that Arab Ba’ath Socialist Party came to Iraq through and by Shi’ite members who brought it from Syria, and that during Saddam’s reign the members of the Ba’athist national high command were 75% Shi’ites.
The harsh treatment by Saddam only occurred when people conspired against him, therefore the harsh treatment was not only against the Shi’ite or Kurd, but also against Sunnis and even his tribe/family members who turned against him (Hussein Kamil as an example).
History school books during the Kingdom period did discuss the difference between Sunnis and Shi’ites from a historical perspective without instilling hatred, however Shi’ites were unsatisfied with that due to the neutral take on the whole matter, and during the Ba’athist period every mention about the division between Shi’ites and Sunnis was removed from the history school books.
D) The Double Face of Shi’ite Ba’athists:
When I was a child, I had many Shi’ite friends in my school. One day I was playing with my best friend in his house during summer vacation, and back then we had religion summer classes in the nearby, Sunni, mosque. So I asked him if he would like to come with me there, her mother interrupted me rudely and said: ‘No, we give our children special religious teachings in our house‘, this statement really confused me because I didn’t understand back then what is a Sunni or a Shi’ite. This in itself refutes the lie that Shi’ites were forbidden to their own sect/faith teachings. Also ironically his father was a prominent Ba’athist and the head of Uday’s (Saddam Hussein’s eldest son) office.
Another thing that caught my attention and which I remember well; was how much hatred those children were being taught – curses against Abu Bakr, Omar, Othman and other followers/companions of Prophet Mohammed is considered okay among them – and they only accepted me because they thought that I am a Shi’ite too because one of my names are one of their Imams, their close minded belief embrace the idea that Sunnis hates Ali and all of his descendants while actually Sunnis revered and respected them a lot and even call their children Ali, Hassan, Hussein, Fatima etc..
Again these school children dads were senior officials in the government, high ranking military officers, and Ba’athists. They weren’t expelled after 2003 by the Deba’athification Committee, instead they were given even higher ranks and better positions.
One of such a great example is the Iraqi General who calls himself ’Abu al-Walid’, the commander of the so called ‘Wolf Brigade’ which is part of the ‘Police Commando’ or ‘Maghaweer’ in they are called in Iraq. This brigade abducted Sunnis, tortured them, and forced them to confess to fabricated charges in front of TV cameras, which has become common practice that is still going on.
Anyway, before 2003, ‘Abu al-Walid’ was an officer in Saddam’s Republican Guards, and after the suppression of the uprising he was charged with using excessive and unnecessary firepower during his mission in Southern Iraq against his fellow Shi’ites, thus he was moved to the Border Guards until 2003. After that he wasn’t charged with any crime against humanity and was not deba’athisized, but instead was given a high command position and now he is hailed by the Shi’ite population as a hero who fights the “Sunni Terrorism”.
During the last week of 2003′s war against Iraq, almost all Shi’ite army officers stationed in Baghdad ran away, and the high command had to issue arrest warrants against them for desertions but it was too late. On the other hand many Sunni officers held their positions in the battle ground until the very last day of war (9th of April, 2003). And in some cases they never returned to their homes. One of my relatives was a Captain in the Iraqi Army, during the last day of the war he was shot in the back while he was busy firing RPGs against incoming American Abrams tank.
Actually the Shi’ite backstabbing during the war accelerated the fall of many cities to the American forces, the most notable example is Najaf and Kerbala. During the battles the Iraqi Army suffered lots of desertion and hits in the rear by traitors while fighting the Americans in the front and taking their bombardment from the air.
Even before the 2003 war, Shi’ite officials during 1990s in Iraq had the habit of silently, covertly, quietly, carefully and slowly ousting their Sunni counterparts in the government and replacing them with loyal Shi’ites. A habit which became widespread and public after the war.
During a Ba’athist meeting in 1995 inside the Military Industrial Committee (during the supervision of Hussein Kamil, who was a very secular man despite what Shi’ites claimed), a Sunni Brigadier General protested on what the Shi’ite general managers are doing by replacing their staff and making them Shi’ite exclusively once they take authority. His political supervisor who was Sunni himself became very upset and silenced him ordering him to never bring up such a subject again, Shi’ites in the meeting accused that Brigadier General of being sectarian for just bringing up this sensitive subject.
Actually there was nothing that could be done, the state has no law to combat such covert sectarianism, and most importantly the state never adopted sectarian agenda. All that upset Sunnis could do was to mumble about it privately.
Saddam himself decreed a law ordering imprisonment to anyone found guilty of delivering sectarian and hate speech with a 3 years jail term regardless of their background, while the punishment of insulting the president of the Iraqi republic was only a one month period (provided they couldn’t find evidence that you are a collaborator with a foreign entity).
During the Iranian-Iraqi war in 1980s, and specifically in late 1981, great defeats in the Iraqi Army happened around Abadan (Khorramshahr in Persian). Around 50,000 of Iraqi troops surrendered to the Iranians without putting up a fight, this surrender was attributed to the fact that the commanding officers were Shi’ites who were probably hoping to be spared by Iranians. Iranians however didn’t spare them, they executed all officers of all ranks and of all backgrounds on the 1st of December 1981. sparing no one and having no mercy at all. That day was later called the ‘Martyrs’ Day’ in Iraq and even Saddam shed silent tears in un-aired speech dedicated to them.
It is worth mentioning however that many Iraqi Shi’ite POWs in Iranian captivity formed a militia which is regarded part of the Iranian armed forces called (Badr Corps). The mission of this corps was purely base on terrorist tactics. After 2003 the militia contiued hunting down Iraqi Army officers who participated in Iran-Iraq war, usually picking only Sunni officers.
After the 2003 war against Iraq. Sunnis became the most easiest targets to the Shi’ite militias due to the fact that they were able to use the American military to disarm, kill and detain a very large number of Sunnis (there could be more than 100,000 Sunni prisoners since 2003) under the guise of fighting al-Qaeda terrorists and other insurgency/rebels. This targeting included abduction, killing people based on their names, identity and their backgrounds, shelling Sunni neighborhoods with mortar or rockets, seizing businesses and forcing people to take refugee elsewhere (thus the Iraqi Sunni Arab diaspora exists almost everywhere globally). Actually Sunni Arab victims in Iraq are pretty much like the pogroms/holocaust victims during Nazi Germany era.
E) Recent Events:
I wasn’t very surprised when the whole Shi’ites in the world backed the Ba’athist regime in Syria against its own people. The hive mentality and the false feeling of being persecuted and hated by the Sunnis made the Shi’ites perceive any Sunni as a possible danger that needs to be eliminated as soon as possible, even if that Sunni was not armed, a women or even a child.
Let’s take the Iraqi Shi’ites for example, they claimed that they suffered from the Ba’athist Saddamist regime (some of these claims are true, as I’ve explained earlier the Ba’athists had to crackdown against several attempts of Shi’ite uprisings supported and driven by the Iranian regime. During these crackdowns many innocents were hurt or died). Yet they have the audacity to support the Ba’athis Assadist regime terrible crimes against the Syrians Sunnis without any regards to the humanitarian condition of the defenseless Syrians who are being slaughtered en masse everyday.
And when you question them about such unethical support and behavior they would reason it with that Bashar al-Assad is actually not killing Syrian civilians and he isn’t even facing an armed popular uprising against him but actually fighting terrorists supported by America and Israel, while deny that Assadist thugs are doing these massacres and always accuse the Sunni Free Syria Army of committing them.
When in fact, they are horrified from the idea that their long term Alawite Assad regime ally would fall in Syria and in consequence these Shi’ites in Lebanon (represented by Hezbollah), Iraq and Iran would be very weakened.
In contrast, when the Shi’ites in Bahrain protested against their Monarchs and things turned violent, all Shi’tes in the world sided with them protesters instead of accusing them of being saboteurs or terrorists. The Iraqi Shi’ite government decided to send millions of dollars as financial aid (while millions of those who voted for them are dying from hunger and illness). The Iranian Regime even hinted that it might use force.
They also turned their backs to the peaceful protests by Iranians in Tehran which were crushed violently by the regime and its supporters. All of this for the sake of letting the extremist Shi’ite regime stay in power.
F) The Other Side of The Coin:
I can’t for sure claim that all Shi’ites are like this. Actually some of them are persecuted by their own kin. The most notable example of Shi’ite non-sectarian and moderate clerics is Imam Jawad al-Khalsi, who always opposed the idea of perceiving Sunnis as the enemy and stood against sectarian clerics who are benefiting from the hate that is being spread between Shi’ites and Sunnis. Unfortunately followers of such ideology from the Shi’ite sect are very few and almost non existent, furthermore such followers are regarded by other Shi’ites as non-believers.
That being said, it is also undeniable that there are some sectarian Sunnis who can’t stand the Shi’ite ideologies, but those are very few and can do little harm. The only exception is in Iraq when the sectarian violence grew rapidly in 2006, many Sunnis were pushed unwillingly into this whirlpool and it was a product of counteraction against the Shi’ite militias.
The Shi’ites not just benefited from -and exploited- the secular Iraqi state (1920-2003), they also didn’t appreciate their heads of state either publicly or privately if they weren’t Sunnis. The only exception was the first president of Iraq, Abdulkareem Qasim, because he was a Shi’ite despite the fact he didn’t extend his sect more benefits and nothing comparable to the benefits extended by Saddam Hussein.
So in my opinion, these Shi’ite mind frame and stands are due to several reasons:
- An exaggerated unfounded fear that Sunnis are conspiring against Shi’ites.
- An explainable hatred toward Sunnis, most likely induced by the Shi’ite clergy through the calling to their followers to take revenge from millions of Sunnis for an event that happened 1400 years ago.
- Seeking opportunistic chances to seize authority and power at the expense of others non Shi’ites. Even if these opportunities meant the resort to treason, deceit and fabricating facts.
Sometimes I wonder, if Saddam or any other head of state were Shi’ites. Would they be hailed by Shi’ites as their leader even if they were harmful to them?
The Shi’ites, in fact only consider their kin to be good and legitimate heads of state:
- Khomeini and Khamenei of Iran and those who acted as heads of state under their supervision.
- Abdulkareem Qasim of Iraq.
- Nassrallah head of Hezbollah, the most powerful political entity in Lebanon.
- Hafidh and his son Bashar al-Assad of Syria, not technically Shi’ites but Alawites.
- Qaddafi, while he wasn’t at least publicly a Shi’ite, he was the greatest supporter to the Iranian radical regime policies.
- Ibrahim al-Ja’afari and Nouri al-Maliki, prime ministers of Iraq and active terrorists since the 1970s.
- Sistani, Muqtada al-Sadr and al-Hakims, while those aren’t heads of state, but they are very influential in Iraq, as party/sect leaders.
From the brief historical introduction, we can clearly see that Shi’tes quest for political power during the Caliphate period where they maintain that it was Ali and his sons who should have ruled Muslims then and this is at root of the current divide. Therefore Shi’ism can be seen as a political movement that wants to differentiate itself from its Sunni counterpart by rituals that will make them stand out, and by sermons that will mobilize their masses to the orders of their clerics in Iran. One can notice these “deliberate” efforts at differentiation even in the day they decide to start their Ramadan fasting or their Eids (Muslim religious holidays). Also they added several additions to the prayer calls and the prayers itself among many other things just for the sake to look ‘different’ from their Sunni counterparts.
Their political rallies to their holy shrines (Notably Kerbala, Najaf and Kadhimia) usually take a religious form but are political in nature and resemble fascist gatherings. Which makes their sectarianism resembles a religious form of fanatic fascism.
I don’t think that the Shi’ite public support for their radical leaders will lead to anything good, it is brewing hate and agitation against them in the already agitated Middle East region. I truly wish that the educated portions of the Shi’ite population would one day wake up and oppose the calls of animosity and sectarianism that are being propagated by their clerks and unethical leaders.
After all peace in the region won’t be achieved unless each side decides to stop spreading hate and violence and instead starts to discuss and talk together.