Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Breath of Fresh Air

So I don't know about you guys, but I'm just a tad tired of hearing about our government and its problems. You can turn on any news channel you wish and watch everybody point fingers at everybody else and bla bla political jargon, bla bla Republicans, bla bla ObamaCare, I'm tired of hearing about it and all other world news has basically vanished off of our radar. Remember Syria and their Civil War? Oh yeah them, the ones getting murdered by their government, what happened with that? Unless you really go out and seek this stuff, which lets face it no one really has the time to do since we're not directly affected by it, you don't really know about it. I can understand how it seems impractical to be worried about the rest of the world when right here in America we're having problems, but the difference is our problems could've been avoided (*COUGH COUGH* REPUBLICANS). But anyway, I digress. 

One thing I read happened today was a bomb went off in a crowd of Sunni worshippers while they were leaving a mosque in northern Iraq after finishing prayers for the start of a major Muslim holiday called Eid al-Adha. 12 people were killed and 24 were wounded. No one has taken responsibility yet for the attack, but according to abc news "More than 5,000 people have been killed in Iraq since al-Qaida and other militants stepped up attacks following a deadly security crackdown against a Sunni protest camp in April." Here is one of the links to that story if you'd like to know more information: http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/bomb-mosque-northern-iraq-kills-12-sunnis-20572060 

So I don't know about you guys but I never fully understood the bad blood between the Shias and the Sunnis. I knew they didn't like each other, and hadn't liked each other since, well, always, but besides that I was completely unaware of how it all happened.

I am not a Middle Eastern expert, I'm not an expert on Islam, this is simplified, and all that other disclaimer jazz, but let's get started:

Just an FYI:  Shia, Shi'ite, Shiite = all talking about the same thing. 

To really grasp all this we have to go way back...

570 AD to be exact which is when Mohammed was born. He was born in the Arabian Peninsula which at the time was full of tribes. As far as society went your tribe meant everything. They were a Pagan, Polytheistic people and the Peninsula as a whole was very fragmented and not unified whatsoever. 

Mohammed was born into the equivalent of a Middle Class and after the death of his parents at a young age he was raised by his uncle who was really powerful and had a lot of influence. Mohammed becomes a semi-successful merchant and does well for himself.

Mecca is the trading center where Mohammed lives. People from all over come to trading centers and talk and exchange ideas, he heard about Judaism and Christianity and was intrigued by them.

Mohammed was described by others as a noble, just, person who was social and practical and was even used as a mediator between tribes when there were problems. He was an overall good guy.

In his 20's he married a women who was 15 years older than him, and would sometimes go to a cave, away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and apart from society, and meditate. Although he was religiously inquisitive, he was Pagan like everyone around him was at the time. One day during his meditation, he had a revelation and was visited by the angel Gabriel. Gabriel tells him "Proclaim!" The gist of what Gabriel says is from this point on you will be my messenger, there's only 1 God and you will spread that message. Mohammed went home to wife and freaked out. He thought he was having a mental breakdown and was going crazy, but she believed him and thought he was being used by God. 

Over the years Mohammed has other visitations and the manor in which God is to be honored is laid out to him.

This was very different from what everyone else believed, Mohammed still lived in a Pagan, Polytheistic society where people believed in many gods. His life was threatened by the other Tribes who had different beliefs from him and his powerful uncle was a big part of what kept him safe. The more Mohammed spread his message, the more followers he gained and the more trouble there was with the other tribes. Eventually his uncle died and without his protection his chances of being killed were very great so he leaves Mecca thus creating Hegira.

Hegira is the flight from Mecca. Mohammed goes to a place called Medina where he establishes the first Muslim community. The Koran is created here and he gains more followers. 10 years later, Mohammed, with an army of his followers, returns to Mecca and in 622 AD he captures it, turning Mecca into the most important site in the Islamic faith. He goes on to conquer the rest of the Arabian Peninsula and unifies them under Islam.

Islam - submission to God

Muslim - one who submits to Allah's divine guidance 

Someone can't be an Islam, and someone can't practice Muslim. 

Allah - Arabic for the word "God". It's the same Judea/Christian God, just a different word for it. Mohammad liked Christians and Jews,  he considered them "people of the book", children of God, believers of Allah.

Eventually Mohammed becomes very sick, very quickly, and before he can name a successor, in 632 AD, he dies. This is what leads to the split in the faith. One group thinks Mohammed's cousin is the successor, the other group doesn't want to follow the cousin. Eventually the cousin is assassinated and there's a lot of tension between the two groups. The Sunni Muslims, who make up about 85%, didn't want to follow the cousin, they didn't think he was worthy to lead them. The Shia Muslims, who make up about 10-15%, wanted the cousin. 

And that's how it all began. They've literally disliked each other for thousands of years. 

You may ask, how is this still relevant? Well, let's take a look at Syria. The Assad Family is affiliated with an offshoot of Shia Islam that's about 12% of the Syrian population. They have tight control over Syria' security services which made the Sunni Muslims, who make up the other 75% of the population, not so happy. Not to say that all of Syria is either Sunni or Shia, the Syrian Kurds weren't so jazzed about ethnic discrimination either, but I'm just generalizing as far as the big religions in the area. Also, on top of all this, Syria's poorer areas are predominantly conservative Sunnis who are discontent with the government. Basically Assad helped his people, he created policies that benefited the minority which just so happened to be people with government connections and the Sunni merchant class. I'm not saying this caused the civil war or the current state of Syria, but it certainly didn't help anything. 

How do you even begin to go about resolving an issue like this, it's practically imbedded in their being not to like each other. It's an extremely delicate situation at best.

And you thought America had problems, HA!


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