Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Will Sunnis and Shiites go to war? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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They fought in the past and they can easily fight again when extremists on both sides believe the appropriate time has come for mobilizing their people. Such a state is common amongst different sects and ethnicities all over the world. Such a state has always allowed geography, history and extremism to merge in such a negative way.

The continuous battle in Iraq does not call for strong criticism because until now, it resembles other political endeavors around the world, where competition and political activity can take place through an electoral system that is fair and protected by the support of the international community. Thus, competition even if it is cloaked by sectarianism, has not yet gone out of its accepted frame and its political limits and will only become dangerous when it does so.

Unfortunately, democracy in developing countries reveals the worst of its qualities as it provides opportunities for dispute and terror rather than the electoral system, the intention of which is to present the best opportunities to all competitors and serve society. Iraq is simply like any other major country in the world. It is filled with historic and contemporary differences and it is inevitable that these differences between competitors and between the electoral programs will come to the fore. Despite the differences that are sometimes expressed violently, they do remain politically valid. The fear is not that some candidates would call on the support of people in elections based on their sectarian identity but rather that competitors would dispute the results of the elections, continue their battle, ultimately making sectarian violence part of the everyday lives of Iraqis. Regrettably, Iraq’s current political process seems to be following this path and will continue to do so unless people focus on serving the interests of society as a whole rather than focusing on the differences within society.

Shiites, who represent the majority, should be keen to protect democracy as numerically speaking they are stronger whereas Sunnis and other minorities, despite their expected losses in the elections, would have no other choice but to participate in the political electoral process. Accordingly, it is in the interest of all parties to follow democracy on their path towards achieving peace, as the interests of all parties are included in democracy. Why would anyone reject this simple assumption? I say that some believe that Iraq should be settled politically based on sectarianism or geography. Over the past one hundred years, we have learnt the hard way that in politics there is no better solution than civil peace protected by peaceful political institutions. This peaceful political frame would guarantee common interests in such a diverse society and major country, furthermore indicating a prosperous future if only stability was to be provided. Violating the rules of democracy is hazardous for all parties. There are numerous examples that we could cite including that of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia had seceded into two states and then again into various divisions; Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina. These were further divided into two main states; Serbia and Montenegro. These states had split on the pretext of combating communism, and later used religion as another reason for war. It divided again and went to war again.

The Shiites and Sunnis of Iraq could either collectively build a great country, or they could tear it into pieces. If exploited by opportunists for their personal interests and ambitions, those very differences that are common between sects and religions could result in one great disaster.