GUEST: Nader Hashemi, Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver, author of Islam, Secularism and Liberal Democracy: Toward a Democratic Theory for Muslim Societies. He is the editor with Danny Postel of the new book Sectarianization: Mapping the New Politics of the Middle East
BACKGROUND: The Muslim world has experienced much violence for decades now, with internecine warfare fueled by foreign interference. In countries like Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and more, conflicts between Sunni and Shia groups in particular draw media attention and spur foreign analysts to make the case that sectarian wars are the primary cause of violence.
It is a comfortable trope that builds on a history of orientalism that the "uncivilized" masses of Muslims simply cannot get along with one another because of an ancient division among the followers of the Prophet Mohammed that divides people and communities today.
At present this conflict appears to manifest in various ways: the Sunni-Shia battles in Iraq and Syria, and the Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia in a proxy war against Shia-dominated Iran, etc. But it is crucial to understand the true nature of the battles being fought especially given the US's long-standing role in arming and backing one side against another.