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The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2006

    Shia-Sunni Blind Hatred Back with a Vengeance

    Vali Nasr makes the ancient Shia-Sunni divide understandable to a wide audience. Nasr reminds his readers that between the toppling of the Shah of Iran in 1979 and 9/11, the U.S. looked at the Middle East from the vantage point of Sunni dictatorial elites (pp. 21, 27). The American focus on Sunnism is not so surprising when one realizes that Shias represent only 10 to 15% of the world¿s 1.3 billion Muslims. However, Shias are about as numerous as Sunnis in the Near East (p. 34). Most Sunnis have a legalistic approach to Islam and are convinced that as the dominating group they should have the upper-hand on earth to guarantee order and religious orthodoxy (pp. 39, 50-51, 57-59, 87, 91, 150, 156). Islamic fundamentalism was originally closely related to the Sunni conception of their right to rule and their reaction against Western imperialism and secularism (pp. 93-94, 96, 100-01, 106, 143-44). One major exception to this majority rule is Syria where the Alawi minority, an offshoot of Shiism, holds the keys to power at the expense of the Sunni majority (pp. 65, 92). Nasr clearly demonstrates that outside Iran, most Shias are often treated as second-class Muslims and branded as heretics for their esoteric, millenarian approach to Islam (pp. 23, 28, 44, 52, 84, 93-94, 130-34, 159-63, 234-40). Nasr compares the Shiite historical experience with that of the Jews because of a common tale of martyrdom, persecution, and suffering (pp. 57, 65, 87, 112). Interestingly, Iranian Shiism has got increasingly sunnified under the influence of Ayatollah Khomeini and his successors, who did not remain totally indifferent to Sunni fundamentalism (pp. 58, 125-26, 145). Iran became the epicenter of Shia fundamentalism in its clashes with both Sunni fundamentalism and the West (pp. 107-09, 115, 117, 138, 141-42). In ending Saddam Hussein¿s Sunni minority rule over Iraq in the aftermath of 9/11, the U.S. gave a voice to the oppressed Shia majority and inadvertently gave a new life to the Shia-Sunni old mutual hatred (pp. 82, 90, 170, 245). The Shia revival in Iraq has a ripple effect across the Islamic world (pp. 65-66, 179, 184, 231, 241, 247-50). The U.S. started interacting with Shia leaders for the first time since the Iranian revolution (pp. 22, 27). Unsurprisingly, Shia clerics such as Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and the renegade Muqtada al-Sadr have emerged as key power brokers in Iraq because of their wide influence on their flock (pp. 70, 85, 91, 171-76). The sectarian conflict in the Middle East, especially in Iraq, cannot be understood without considering the unbalanced distribution of wealth and power between Shias and Sunnis (pp. 28-29, 179). In contrast to their Iranian counterparts, the Shia clergy in Iraq has overwhelmingly adopted a quietist, orthodox approach to the faith under the influence of Ayatollah Sistani. The quietist Shia clergy is more open to the separation of religion and politics based on the principle of majority rule while protecting and promoting Shia piety (pp. 125-30, 145, 172, 176, 180, 190). This Iraqi quietist approach is increasingly influential in Iran (pp. 177, 219-21). Modern Iraq shows striking similarities with the Turkish core of the Ottoman Empire after WWI: 1) Foreign powers such as the U.S., Iran, and Saudi Arabia and Sunni outsiders involved in jihad are at cross-purposes about how to expand their influence in Iraq and about how to eventually partition its territory (pp. 184, 204, 208, 211-26, 231, 241-42, 244-54). Iran has its ¿Prussian moment¿ in looking for regional hegemony (pp. 222-23). Like Germany before, Iran will ultimately pay a heavy price for its quest for supreme power in the region. Focusing attention on the U.S. and Israel to divert attention from the sectarian divide betrays desperation (pp. 226, 241). 2) Ancient mixed communities are bearing the brunt of an increasingly lethal civil war (pp. 25-27, 204, 207, 242). The remaining moderates wit

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2007

    Great indepth read

    I was fascinated with the book on its account of history, theology, & practicality. It gave me a better understanding of the muslim faith and the differences & disparties the shia face. It is definatley recommended for one who has no prior knowledged of Islam.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2007


    Maybe after reading this book, some will see there is more to Middle East politics than just hate. I have many Muslim friends, both Shia and Sunni and have visited Southern Lebanon. This book helps put together some pieces I didn't quite link. A must read for anyone who would truly like to understand.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2007

    What's going on in Iraq

    This is a must read. Nasr brillantly tells the history about Sunnis vs Shias. This a great read for anyone trying to make sense on what is happening in the Middle East.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2007


    What an excellent source of information for all who want to know more about the history, present, and future of the Middle East. My only gripe is that it was short, but the author still seemed to wrap everything up without cutting any corners. Get this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2006

    a marvelous book

    Once in a while you read a book that changes how you see things. This is such a book. It is beautifully written, lucid and concise, and presents the Middle East from a whole new perspective. Do you yourself a favor and read it. You'll love it

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2006

    A Must Read

    A few friends recommended this book and I am glad I read it. It is really well-written in layman's language. It is also not like other Iraq books, no cheap shots at Bush. It really explains conflicts in Iraq and Lebanon. I learned a lot and I think anyone who wants to make sense of the problems there shouldread it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2006

    An excellent expose from an expert

    This one of the best books I have recently read on the Middle East. It is unbiased, beautifully written, and thought-provoking. If you want to understand what is going on in the Middle East read this book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2006

    No Blame on America Cast

    Please read this book if you wish to understand the Middle East. Nasr, a native Iranian, US Naval Post Graduate School professor, and US Foreign Policy aid and advisor, provides Shia and Sunni history, theology, and politics without filter.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2006

    Read, read, read this book

    Everyone has an opinion about the War in Iraq but most don't have the slighest idea of what the Middle East is like or what they are talking about including myself. After reading this book I feel I have a better understanding of the Middle East, but if the truth be told, I had very little undersanding of the situation previously. This book is unbiased and a real revelation and really opened my eyes. While reading you might want to have a dictionary with you or a computer so you can look up things you are not familiar with. In the past I believe I have made many statements and voiced many opinions about Iraq when really I had no knowledge about what I was espousing. Hopefully now I will keep my mouth shut but at least I am now informed a little.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2009

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