Why the Sunni-Shia Split?

Why the Sunni-Shia Split?

January 3, 2016 by George G. Coe



Saudi Arabia just executed 47 prisoners, including a renowned Shi’a cleric, Nimr al-Nimr, who was a fervent critic of the Saudi royal family. Iran, a Shia country, condemned the execution and Iranians overran the Saudi embassy and set it on fire. According to the Washington Post, “Shiites around the world expressed outrage, potentially complicating a surge of U.S. diplomacy aimed at bringing peace to the region.” This might be a good time to review with students the differences between Sunnis and Shias.


Two branches of Islam developed after the death of the prophet Muhammad.  Shias, who represent the smallest group of Muslims, believe that the successor to the Prophet had to be related to Muhammad. According to this excellent BBC story, “the Shia claimed the right of Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, and his descendants to lead the Islamic community.”


The Sunnis, the largest group of Muslims, do not agree. As NPR notes in this excellent story about the origins of the split, “Sunnis believed that leadership should fall to the person who was deemed by the elite of the community to be best able to lead the community.” Sunnis represent the vast majority of Muslims in the Middle East and beyond.  According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Iran is the largest Shia country but Iraq and Bahrain also have a Shiite majority.




Pope Francis Denounces Trickle-Down Economics

Originally found here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2013/11/26/pope-francis-denounces-trickle-down-economics/


Original Text: Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium of the Holy Father Fancis

Washington Post Article Commentary:

Pope Francis has released a sharply worded take on capitalism and the world’s treatment of its poor, criticizing “trickle-down” economic policies in no uncertain terms.

In the first lengthy writing of his papacy — also known as an “apostolic exhortation” — Francis says such economic theories naively rely on the goodness of those in charge and create a “tyranny” of the markets.

“In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world,” the pope wrote. “This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”


While popes have often warned against the negative impact of the markets, Francis’s verbiage is note-worthy because of its use of the phrase “trickle-down” — a term that came into popular usage as a description for former president Ronald Reagan’s economic policies. While the term is often used pejoratively, it describes an economic theory that remains popular with conservatives in the United States today.

The theory holds that policies benefiting the wealthiest segment of society will also help the poor, by allowing money to “trickle down” from the top income levels into the lower ones. Critics, including President Obama, say the policies, usually focused on tax cuts and credits that primarily benefit upper-income Americans, concentrate wealth in the highest income levels and that the benefits rarely trickle down to the extent proponents suggest.

In his exhortation, the pope also attacked economic inequality, suggesting Christians have a duty to combat it to comply with the Ten Commandments — specifically the prohibition on killing.

“Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality,” the pope wrote. “Such an economy kills.”

The pope also likened the worship of money to the biblical golden calf.

“We have created new idols,” Francis wrote. “The worship of the ancient golden calf … has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.”

The pope also attacks “consumerism”: “It is evident that unbridled consumerism combined with inequality proves doubly damaging to the social fabric.”