Inter Muslim religious bigotry flares
A popular Sunni Muslim cleric with a television show and a website that churns out religious edicts and dieting tips agitated centuries-old animosities in the Islamic world recently by referring to Shiite Muslims as heretics seeking to invade Sunni societies.I have often noted the religious bigotry toward non Muslims that pervades both the Sunnis and the Shia, but you don't often see the inter Muslim bigotry flare so openly. Intolerance of the other is a driving force behind much of the Islamic terrorism today and there are plenty of preachers of hate to keep it stirred up.
The bitter, often bloody, divide between the two main branches of Islam has been an undercurrent since the 7th century, but Sheik Yusuf Qaradawi's vitriol comes at a fragile time, when Sunni countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt are wary that the predominantly Shiite nations of Iraq and Iran could destabilize the region.
With populist fervor, Qaradawi's comments intertwined religious mistrust with political suspicion. Iran's nuclear program and influence with the Shiite-led government in Iraq and the radical group Hezbollah in Lebanon have agitated Sunni governments. Fighting between Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq, which left tens of thousands dead since the U.S. invasion of 2003, has calmed, but the Sunni Arab minority worries about its future.
"Shiites are Muslims but they are heretics and their danger comes from their attempts to invade Sunni society," said Qaradawi, who was quoted in the Egyptian independent daily Al Masry al Youm. "They are able to do that because their billions of dollars trained cadres of Shiites proselytizing in Sunni countries. . . . We should protect Sunni society from the Shiite invasion."