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Sectarianism

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The Oxford Dictionary of Islam What is This? Covers the religious, political, and social spheres of global Islam in the modern world

    Sectarianism

    Although the Quran warns against sectarianism (e.g., 30:31–32 ), divisions and sects emerged within the Muslim community as early as the first civil war ( 656 – 61 ). Questions about legitimate authority and about the proper attitude toward those involved in this civil war were central to the subsequent emergence of Shii and Sunni Islam as well as to other, shorter-lived groups (e.g., the Kharijis). Relations between the majority Sunnis and the various communities of the Shiis (today some 10–15 percent of the Muslim population) have varied widely in Muslim history. There have been long periods of peace and relatively harmonious coexistence as well as sharp polemical exchanges and bitter conflict. In recent times, the success of the Iranian revolution of 1979 has contributed to a resurgence among the Shiis in the Middle East and South Asia, which, in many cases, has led to strained relations with apprehensive Sunni communities. In the Arab Middle East, the Iranian revolution was viewed with deep suspicion by the ruling elite, who sometimes supported the activities of rival Sunni organizations as a means of countering the spread of Iran's revolutionary influence. In Pakistan, militant Sunni and Shii organizations emerged in the 1980s and have remained active since then in recurrent cycles of sectarian violence. Sectarian tensions in South and West Asia were exacerbated with the emergence of the anti-Shii Taliban in Afghanistan.

    See also Ahmadis; Ismailis; Shii Islam

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