Islamic Identity Conflict: The Sectarianism of Sunni and Shia

The divide between Sunni and Shia Muslims is rooted in divergent opinions about the succession of Islamic leadership, how some parts of the Qur’an are to be interpreted, and different understandings of how to be a Muslim. These differences are magnified in a long-standing and intense struggle among nations and ethnic groups for political power in the Middle East and beyond. Although most Muslims reject sectarianism, some have debased Sunni and Shia identities to justify their pursuit of power and influence. This article employs four of Geert Hofstede’s cultural dimensions to better understand the social and political aspects of the sectarian divide between Sunni and Shia Muslims: (1) exclusion in an inclusive culture; (2) uncertainty avoidance; (3) short-term orientation; and (4) power distance.

This article grew out of a paper from my first class at the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution. It’s been published! This link opens the article in a new window.

Jeff Trueman