It's a cliche to blame Sunni-Shi'ite split for Middle East wars

The schism may be ancient, but the contest is a modern nationalist one between Iran and Saudi Arabia in areas where governance has collapsed

The West has been obsessed with Islam ever since Samuel Huntington's prediction of a "clash of civilisations" turned into self-fulfilling prophecy after the terrorist attacks of Sept 11, 2001.

The perception and vocabulary of "jihad versus crusade" are now commonplace in a polarised global context that is increasingly defined by identity politics. A shallow, religion-oriented analysis also dominates a growing segment of Western thinking about most issues in the Middle East, ranging from Turkey's transformation under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Sryia.

Please or to continue reading the full article. Learn more about ST PREMIUM.

Enjoy unlimited access to ST's best work

  • Exclusive stories and features on multiple devices
  • In-depth analyses and opinion pieces
  • ePaper and award-winning multimedia content
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 27, 2018, with the headline 'It's a cliche to blame Sunni-Shi'ite split for Middle East wars'. Print Edition | Subscribe