Information from the CQ Researcher online database, from Leda Hartman’s article shows that sectarian conflicts between the two groups are almost as old as the religion itself. Centuries ago, in most countries, the two groups co-existed in peace, but this soon changed into a full-scale violence during last year’s democracy movement in the Arab spring and when the U.S invaded Iraq.
According to Cornell, there are up to 85-90% of Sunni Muslims in the world and 10-15% of Shiite Muslims.ii Most Shiites live in many parts of the world but majority of them can be found in countries such as Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Iran among others. It is important to note that the Shiite Muslims in these countries are either the majority or a minority group with a lot of influence on powerful political positions, or none at all. The Sunnis, on the other hand are many, with large populations in countries such as India, North African states such as Libya, Egypt and Morocco.
The situation between the Sunni and Shiite Muslims is not only about theology and history as previously mentioned in the introduction, but also about competition for power, a lot of privilege in some politicians from either of the group also intensifies the distrust and hostility. In page 114 of Cornell’s book, the sectarian division between the Sunnis and Shiites has taken very many centuries to develop. When Prophet Mohammad died, there was a problem among the young Muslims in regard to the one to succeed the Prophet.iii Disagreements emerged in the community eventually, resulting to these two groups. Additionally, the disagreement between the two groups soon developed into divisions related to politics, the ritual practices and theological doctrines. Hence, the two have always had different views leading to hostility, open conflicts and coexistence in other instances.iv