Each time I read Western analysts writing on the Arab world, I see an excessive emphasis on our sectarian identities in the Middle East. When we put our mind to make sense of violent events, such as the genocide in Rwanda (1994) or sectarian clashes of post-war Iraq, we often set off on the wrong foot. We are tempted to come to the conclusions: “one society is more prone to violence,” “problems in Iraq are because of Arab mindset,” “there are violent impulses within the Muslim faith,” “genocide is an African phenomenon.” We often fail to grasp it is only a matter of education. Like Nelson Mandela said in 1993, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Nothing new here
Starting from the Ottoman times, even in that era when tolerance was a luxury, Shiite and Sunni populations in Ottoman lands lived together harmoniously.Ceylan Ozbudak
In today’s Middle East however, we do not see Sunni and Shiite Muslims as tolerant as they should be. The Syrian civil war, which gave birth to another civil war inside the not-so-civil war, very quickly became a sectarian issue. Today’s Iraq looks like a battleground of violent sectarian clashes. Lebanon is also trying not to shift its Shiite majority Muslim population to a Sunni majority one with the never ending refugee influx. Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah are the two main proxy armies of Sunni-Shiite conflict. But when you look at Turkey, the Sunni majority Asia Minor has risen above these conflicts with its unique approach in its foreign policy. Even though her allies subjected Iran to strict sanctions, Turkey never cut trade or diplomatic ties with the Shiite Iran.