Saturday, April 14, 2007

Perspective: Iraq fight stirring religious tensions in region

A pilgrimage to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, is the religious duty of both Sunnis and Shiites.

BEIRUT — Tensions between Iraq's Sunnis and Shiites have begun to feed the centuries-old rivalry between the Muslim sects in other countries.

Sectarian fighting in Pakistan over the weekend left 15 dead. In Lebanon, a power struggle between the Shiite opposition and the Sunni-dominated government has spilled into street demonstrations several times this year and fanned fears of civil war.

In both cases, local politics and rivalries have been the main factors at work, but some academics and regional leaders say that growing animosity over the violence in Iraq has worsened Sunni-Shiite relations.

"The mess in Iraq has fed sectarian consciousness in the Muslim world," said Augustus Richard Norton, a professor at Boston University and author of Hezbollah: A Short History. "It's a war in which Shias are intentionally targeted by Sunnis and vice-versa. That threatens to spill over elsewhere."

Read the rest at USA Today