Saturday, August 21, 2004


Who is What

Sunnis and Shiites (3)

Much of what people (including some Iraqis) think are differences between Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq are usually in fact differences deriving from geography and not from the two sects… very much like, say, the differences between Texans and Californians. It may well be worthwhile to expand on this subject in this blog sometime.

I hope that after all that I have written you cannot yet tell whether I am a Sunni or a Shiite or, for that matter, whether I am a Muslim or a Christian. Don't worry. It definitely isn't due to any lack of perception on your side. At the moment I am all three. I have never, never felt out of place with any of those "categories" inside Iraq.


About this time last year, and two weeks before that horrible terrorist blast at the UN headquarters in Baghdad, I went to see a UN representative from the Election Assistance Division. A friend of mine came along. One of us was a Shiite and the other a Sunni.

The naïve hope was to advocate the idea of Rapid Democracy in Iraq to the UN. After more than an hour of a very good discussion, the matter naturally went into the Sunni-Shiite question. We argued that this insistence on the issue had very considerable danger of polarizing our society.

To demonstrate the point, we challenged him to tell which one of us was which. He guessed wrong!

Everything else aside, he had a fair, 50-50 chance. I'm glad he was unlucky. Otherwise I wouldn't have been able to write this post to illustrate this point!

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