Explaining Muslim disagreements

sunnishiteLike a gazillion other people, I've started reading The Christian Science Monitor each morning. That's because former hostage Jill Carroll has been telling her story on its pages over the last week and a half. Each installment has been very interesting, if too short. But something in yesterday's account really caught my eye:

I could also see that Shiites were high on their list of enemies. Once, when attempting to explain the historical split between Sunnis and Shiites, Abu Nour, the leader of my captors, stopped himself after he referred to "Shiite Muslims."

"No, they are not Muslims," Ink Eyes said. "Anyone who asks for things from people that are dead, and not [from] Allah, he is not a Muslim."

He was referring to Shiites appealing to long-dead Islamic leaders to intercede with God, asking for miracles such as curing the sick. It's a practice similar to that of Catholics praying to saints.

Wow! I have been trying so hard to find examples of doctrinal disagreements between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. This is the very first doctrinal difference I've seen.

It shouldn't take a brutal kidnapping for reporters to share such information. These disagreements should be fleshed out in all major papers. And not just doctrinal disagreements but also any other factors that have spawned conflict over the ages. This story, which is ostensibly about Sunni and Shiite conflict, fails to explain the divide. So does this story, published today -- although it does mention sectarian violence repeatedly.

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