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Is Iraq's Sunni-Shiite Fight Really About Religion?

  // Sunday, 06 July 2014 08:49 //

News Analysis

As shocking as the video clips of Sunni militants mowing down Shiites in Iraq with AK-47s and then handing out Qurans can be, the barbarity is not new nor unique to the Muslim world.

This extreme violence that is gripping Iraq is largely being cast as a religious war – in this case pitting Sunni against Shiite Muslim extremists. But if history is any indication, painting it as a bloody crisis of Islam misses the point.

Militants under the black banner of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) proclaim they are fighting in the name of Allah. Their stated cause – to establish a caliphate, or Islamic state – only reinforces the sense of a battle royal between two brands of a single religion. But, through the centuries and continents, from Europe to the Middle East and beyond, religious conflicts evolved into battles over power and politics – much like in Iraq today, where ISIS has claimed the mantle of Islam’s only defender.

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