Five Charts that Explain Shia Islam

With the recent advance of the Sunni-extremist group the Islamic State and the increasing sectarian divisions that are cleaving apart the Islamic world, it is more important than ever to understand the differences and similarities between distinct Muslim groups, particularly Sunnis and Shia. With such an understanding, citizens and policy-makers can make more effective decisions […]

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Seeing the Syrian Conflict through Narrative

By Jeffry R. Halverson Unlike the protests of the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt, the campaigns underway against the Assad regime in Syria have a distinctly sectarian character. The Assad regime is dominated by the Alawites, a little-known esoteric Shi‘ite sect. However, the majority of Syria’s population is Sunni Muslim (approx. 75%). And caught in the middle of the conflict are Syria’s Christians (10% of the pop.), Druze, Twelver Shi‘ites, and others, including a […] Read more »

Zawahiri’s Curious Recollection of Karbala in Bin Laden Eulogy

by Jeffry R. Halverson The Karbala master narrative is one of the most rich and influential in the Islamic world, specifically among Shi‘a societies. We devoted an entire chapter to it in the book Master Narratives of Islamist Extremism, and Kamran Scott Aghaie has penned a wonderful study of it in relation to the history of Iranian identity and nationalism. There is a terrific documentary too, examining the narrative in contemporary Iran and Iraq, which […] Read more »

The Iranian Narrative Landscape Stirs

by Jeffry R. Halverson Recently, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been abuzz over the release of a video entitled “The Coming is Very Near,” a 28-minute production created by a group of Twelver Shi‘a devotees of the Hidden Imam al-Mahdi, known as the Harbingers of the Coming (perhaps associated with the Hojjatieh Society). It is believed that President Ahmadinejad’s chief-of-staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei is a member of the group. A report released by the […] Read more »

A Counter-Narrative for Iranian Tyranny

by Jeffry R. Halverson The ruling regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran is increasingly known for a militant foreign policy posture, abuse of the human rights of its citizens, and a suspected nuclear weapons program that threatens to destabilize the Middle East region. It is in the interests of all parties involved, save for the Iranian regime itself, to bring about the radical reform of Iran’s political system, especially in light of its increasing […] Read more »