Talks

What are the historical roots of today’s toxic sectarianism in the Middle East?
by John McHugo

Date: Tuesday 7 November 2017

The story of the ancient Sunni-Shi'i divide, and why it became important again after the Iranian revolution and then turbo-charged after the 2003 invasion of Iraq
What are the historical roots of today’s toxic sectarianism in the Middle East?

The Sunni-Shi'i divide can be traced back to the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 and the civil war in Islam that soon followed. Nevertheless, there was little to suggest it would become toxic in the way that it is today until the 1979 revolution in Iran and the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Why has an ancient theological dispute suddenly become suddenly so significant? John McHugo identifies many factors behind this.  There is much blame to be shared

John McHugo's book A Concise History of Sunnis and Shi'is (September 2017) follows his earlier Syria: A Recent History (2014) and A Concise History of the Arabs (2013). He studied Arabic and Medieval Muslim religious thought at Oxford University and the American University in Cairo  before turning to law and working as a solicitor on many matters concerning Arab countries during the period 1981-2006, especially Egypt, Oman, Bahrain and Yemen. He has also written on legal aspects of the Israel/Palestine issue. He is a board member of the Council for Arab British Understanding (CAABU) and of the British Egyptian Society, and an adviser to Tim Farron on peace in the Middle East

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