The Sunni and Shia are two sects that are derived from the Islam religion. The major difference between the two and the reason that both do not necessarily get along is the true successor of the Prophet Muhammad. As stated in the textbook, “The Shia sect originated as a party supporting the appointment of Ali-a cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad-and his descendants as caliphs” (Bentley, 212). A caliph is a spiritual leader of Islam or a ruler of the Baghdad, claiming to be the successor of Muhammad. Ali acted as a caliph after Muhammad died, but was killed by his enemies shortly after.
Supporters of Ali started the different sect (Shia), in hopes of strengthening the belief that Ali and his descendants were the true heirs of the Prophet Muhammad. Today, the Sunnis and the Shia’s still have their different beliefs, which causes friction between the two sects. For years the Sunni’s have mistreated the Shia for their religious views and they continue to do so. According to the text, “Although persecuted, the Shia survived and strengthened its identity by adopting doctrines and rituals distinct from those of the Sunnis (“traditionalist”), who accepted the legitimacy of the early caliphs” (Bentley, 212).
When Saddam Hussein was the dictator of Iraq, he himself was a Sunni, who suppressed the Shia in his country. This became a problem when the United States invaded Iraq. Believing the Sunni would pose a threat; they insured the Shia controlled the majority of the government. This became the main reason for the violence attributed to civilian deaths in Iraq. After the US departed Iraq, the Iranian government, a Shia government, became very involved in Iraqi politics. Iranian involvement in Iraq has been very stressful for US interest in the Middle East. As long as these two sects continue to fight, the Middle East will be an area of conflict.