Some Questions Answered. Is There Really A Difference? Do Not Mess With Tantor. The Fall Classic.
- In last week’s post, I mentioned my concern and bewilderment with a mosque, full of Shiites, being blown up in Afghanistan. Sunni’s may have taken credit, but who are the Sunnis and Shiites, and why the discourse between them? I asked my friend Samir to help all of us understand the basic history surrounding these sects, and he has come through in a big way. Thank you, Samir.
Caliphate – The rule or reign of a caliph or chief Muslim ruler or the area ruled by a caliph.
Muhammad – Muhammad ibn Abdullah was an Arab religious, social, and political leader and the founder of the world religion of Islam. According to Islamic doctrine, he was a prophet, divinely inspired to preach and confirm the monotheistic teachings of Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and other prophets.
Fatima – Muhammad’s only daughter.
Sunni – The larger of the two main branches of Islam, which differs from Shiite in its understanding of the Sunnah, its conception of religious leadership, and its acceptance of the first three caliphs.
Shiite – The second largest branch of Islam. It holds that the Islamic prophet Muhammad designated Ali ibn Abi Talib as his successor and the Imam (spiritual and political leader) after him.
ISIS – A Sunni fundamentalist group.
Taliban -A Sunni fundamentalist group.
Hezbollah – A Shiite fundamentalist group based in Lebanon and Iraq.
Sunni and Shiite – A Bit of History
Sunni and Shiite are the two main sects of Islam. Sunni is the largest sect and Shiite the second largest. Sunnis represent more than 85% of Islam. While some scholars believe the Sunni/Shiite split was festering prior to the death of the prophet Muhammad, the actual separation happened after Muhammad’s death – circa 656 A.D.
Shiite Muslims believe that Ali Bin Abi Talib, Muhammad’s first cousin as well as his son-in-law, (Ali was married to Fatima, Muhammad’s only daughter) was divinely appointed by God as the rightful successor to Muhammad. According to Shiites (but disputed by Sunnis), Muhammad hinted that God asked him to appoint Ali as his successor in a sermon he gave prior to his death (that day is considered a holy day for the Shiite). Shiite believe that upon Muhammad’s death, some of Muhammad’s close companions (most notably Aisha, one of Muhammad’s twelve wives and some say his favorite) appointed Aisha’s father, Abu Bakr, as the first Muslim Caliph. Ali and Fatima (the daughter of Muhammad) refused to pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr.
Ali was not appointed Caliph (successor or leader) until the assassination of the third Caliph, Uthman bin Affan. His appointment was contested very quickly, and a large Muslim population blamed Ali for the assassination of Uthman, causing an Islamic civil war to start. Soon after Ali was assassinated, his main rival Muawiya claimed the caliphate. Muawiya and his son Yazid raged war against the followers of Ali and the Shiites and ended up killing his two sons (the grandkids of Muhammad) Hassan and Hussein. Hassan was poisoned, and Hussein and all of his family were killed in a territory that is Iraq today.
Since that time and incident, almost 1,400 years ago, the Sunnis and Shiites have been engulfed in hatred, war and terror that continues to this day.
The majority of Shiites live in Iran, Iraq. Yemen and Syria. Lebanon’s Shiite population is over 30%. The balance of the Muslim population is overwhelmingly Sunni including all the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, India, and East Africa.
The fundamentalists on both sides see the other as heretic and must be either converted or killed – a form of Jihad. To understand the hatred, ISIS killed almost the same number of Shiites as foreigners in Iraq and they destroyed many Shiite mosques on the way. The attacks on Shiite mosques in Afghanistan now are very similar to what happened in Iraq.
In my opinion:
• ISIS is telling the Taliban that we are here to stay, and we can destabilize the area – and we still hate Shiites.
• The Taliban do fear that their fighters may feel ISIS is a more fundamentalist group and be attracted to it.
• A continued destabilization of Afghanistan will continue now that the U.S. military has pulled out.
• Taliban was accepted by Afghanis because they brought security and some stability. Their brutality continues, but to a degree the Afghans feel that the Taliban have brought a bit of stability to their country.
- Amidst the civil rights protests the United States faced in the late 1960’s, we watched two American sprinters win the 200 meter gold and silver medals in the 1968 Olympic Games. I watched these two men, on the podium, raise their black-gloved fists as the national anthem was played. My brother and father, watching our black and white television with me, said nothing. I was confused and asked my dad what these two medal winners were doing? As I remember, he told me something like: “…they are protesting human rights; read the newspaper tomorrow and you will learn all about out it…and make your own opinion about the situation.” The long and the short of their protest revolved around civil rights, so right or wrong they used the Olympic Games to make a statement. John Carlos and Tommie Smith were admonished by the International Olympic Committee, their medals taken away, and they were sent home by the U.S. Olympic Committee. Everyone is entitled to their opinion if the Olympic Games was the appropriate platform for these two athletes to express themselves. Many people across the U.S. were appalled by their actions – how could they use the Olympic Games to voice their opinion? For me, there is no difference between John Carlos and Tommie Smith taking their stance with civil rights, in comparison to Simone Biles, the greatest gymnast of all time, taking her stance on mental health. For one, journalist Howard Cosell agreed.
Howard Cosell was an American journalist, known for his verbose and pompous personality. He had a stint on Monday Night Football, and often provided his boisterous commentary for the ABC network. With all the controversy surrounding John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the 1968 Olympic Games, Howard Cosell, in a very short and pointed statement, provided this take on both the International and U.S. Olympic Committees. Well said Howard Cosell!
- Disdain and discourse between people – from the American Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s to the Middle East conflicts that have lasted over a thousand years. Race and religion – something to ponder why the color of a human being’s skin or the differences in one’s beliefs can continue to lead to death and destruction?
- A couple of top of mind thoughts as we head to the end of October:
It is estimated that poachers kill over 20,000 elephants a year on the African continent. Though areas including Botswana have implemented protocols to ward off poaching, their efforts have failed miserably. It is now to the point where the elephants themselves seem to have taken matters into their own hands. Last week, authorities found a rifle and what they determined to be a poacher who came across the likes of Tarzan’s friend Tantor. Maybe the poacher tried to run but to no avail as an African bush elephant can run up to speeds of 25 mph – at a weight of up to 13,000 lbs. A tremendous victory for elephants around the world – and hopefully a message to poachers that their terror on the elephant population will be coming to an end.
It has been twenty-one years. Though that 1999 World Series did not turn out well for the Atlanta Braves, they had finally returned to the Fall Classic. Last night at Atlanta’s Truist Field, the Braves beat the formidable Los Angeles Dodgers and will return, after twenty-one years, to the World Series. Let’s Go Braves!