mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Violence and Tensions Mount As Muslims Observe Ashura


As Muslims the world over commemorate Ashura, the death anniversary of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Hussain, the day serves as a grim reminder of the deepening fault lines between Sunni and Shia.

In two days, more than 61 people were killed in attacks targeting Shia pilgrims and security officials designated to protect them. In multiple cities in Pakistan, 17 people were killed as Sunni mobs attacked Shia processions and mosques. And in Lebanon, Bahrain, and Afghanistan and Kashmir, security threats and a heavy-handed government response made sure that the day of mourning went by tensely with sporadic bouts of violence.

The worst manifestation of Sunni-Shia hostility, however, is in Syria, where radical militants from both sects fight for opposing sides. Hizbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah announced that his forces will fight in Syria indefinitely. Hizbollah is supported by both Shia Iran and the Assad regime, which is Alawite, an offshoot of Shiism. At the same time, Al-Qaeda affiliated Sunni groups like the Nusra Front and Islamic State of Iraq and Sham are fighting on the side of the rebels, with patronage from Arab countries from the Gulf.

This religious element has added another layer of conflict to the geopolitical tensions within the region, especially vis-à-vis Iran. Tragically, more blood is being spilled on the day meant to remember lives lost.

[Pakistani Shiite and Sunni Muslims throw stones at each other during a clash at an Ashura procession in Rawalpindi on November 15, 2013. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.]

Features Icon
show comments
  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    It looks like the Shiite-Sunni fighting is heating up. This is good news for all us Infidels, with the Muslims focused on killing each other, there will be fewer resources and attention paid to murdering innocent men, women, and children. The Byzantine empire used this inexpensive “Divide and Conquer” strategy for hundreds of years with great success, against the many barbarians on their borders.

    I’m always surprised by the lack of Muslim combat skills, despite the numerous wars and continuous fighting in Muslim dominated regions producing such large numbers of veterans. Having them flail away at each other so ineffectively should keep them occupied for many years, as it’s unlikely either side can win with such weak strategic and tactical skills. It will be similar to the Iran-Iraq war, which was so incompetently fought despite modern equipment, that massed infantry attacks and trench warfare were the result.

  • lukelea

    “This religious element has added another layer of conflict to the geopolitical tensions within the region . . .” To say nothing of the tribal tensions within these clan-based societies. That’s the part we really don’t get.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service