I resent having the US drawn into the Sunni-Shia sectarian squabble. Iím not a Muslim, so the dispute seems slightly silly to me. Of course, when Muslims are killing each other, the issue is not silly.
Christians fought the Thirty Years War in Europe over the Catholic-Protestant sectarian squabble. But that war is long over, and Catholics and Protestants comfortably coexist today, even though they till have doctrinal differences. Why canít Sunnis and Shias find a basis for coexistence as Muslims?
As I understand it, both Islamic sects acknowledge Allah and the Prophet Mohammed. Both follow the ďFive Pillars of IslamĒ except for some minor differences about when to pray.
The big difference appears to be the line of succession from Mohammed. This should be a non-issue, if both sides agree on the theological essentials. The fact that succession remains a bone of contention tells me that the dispute has always been more about political power than theology.
In the US, we have brought Catholic and Protestant politicians into our government. We even accept Jews, Mormons, Buddhists and Hindus. The unchurched are there too, but they tend to keep a low profile among all the evangelical Christians.
Fighting over religion is a waste of time, unless religion is a surrogate for fighting over political power.
Muslims really should be able to become at least as unified as US Christians.
Thereís a mosque a block away from where I live in Berkeley. During the last election, the congregation hosted a polling station. We got a tour of the place and a quick summary of what goes on there. I never asked whether the mosque is Shia or Sunni. The subject never came up. Iíll guess that since Sunnis are the more numerous sect, and since many of the congregation came from Egypt, the mosque is Sunni, but I donít really know. For sure, the congregation doesnít pick fights with some Shia mosque, any more than the neighboring Catholic and Lutheran churches picket each otherís services.
In some parts of the US, thereís an awareness of ethnicity in religion. Lutherans may be German or Norwegian. Catholics may be German, Irish, Italian, Polish or whatever. But any sectarian strife is limited to telling jokes about one another. Christians do not kill each other today, the way some Muslims are doing now.
The point is, religious accommodation is definitely possible, if the politics are stripped away.