Skip to content
Subscriber Only

Mideast Sectarian Strife Is Symptom of Weak States: Noah Feldman

Dec. 12 (Bloomberg) -- For most of Islamic history, Sunnis and Shiites have managed to get along under the guidance of strong governments -- mostly run by Sunnis who kept the Shiites in their place. But when governments are on the edge of collapse, as in Iraq a few years ago and in Syria and Afghanistan today, the old sectarian tensions flare.

The consequences matter not just for victims such as the 63 Shiites killed in Afghanistan on Dec. 6, the Shiite holiday of Ashura, or the more than 30 unidentified people whose bodies were dumped in an Alawite neighborhood in Homs, Syria, the same day. They matter for anyone who wants to see peaceful change in the Muslim world. Radical transition breeds instability; and instability has a nasty habit of generating sectarian violence. Understanding the structure of this violence is the only hope of preventing it.