Sectarian violence

Sectarian violence

Sectarian violence or sectarian strife is violence inspired by sectarianism, that is, between different sects of one particular mode of thought, not necessarily religious (e.g. conflicts between the nationalists and communists in China in the early 20th century are largely constructed by Chinese nationals of the time as sectarian). Some of the possible inputs for sectarian violence include power struggles, political climate, social climate, cultural climate, and economic landscape.
*economic - capitalism and collectivism
*political - communist and nationalist
*Christianity - Catholic and Protestant
*Islam - Shia and Sunni

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland has seen inter-communal conflict, particularly in the period from 1969 to 2002 known as "The Troubles". Nearly all the people living in Northern Ireland identified themselves as belonging to either the Protestant or the Catholic community. People of no religion and non-Christian faiths are still considered as belonging to one of the two "sects" along with churchgoers. In this context, "Protestants" means essentially descendants of immigrants from Scotland and England settled in Ulster during or soon after the 1690s; also known as "Loyalists" or "Unionist" because they generally support politically the status of Northern Ireland as a part of the United Kingdom. "Catholics" means descendants of the pre-1690 indigenous Irish population; also known as "Nationalist" and "Republicans"; who generally politically favour a united Ireland.

There are organizations dedicated to the reduction of sectarianism in Northern Ireland. The Corrymeela Community of Ballycastle operates a retreat centre on the northern coast of Northern Ireland to bring Catholics and Protestants together to discuss their differences and similarities. The Ulster Project works with teenagers from Northern Ireland and the United States to provide safe, non-denominational environments to discuss sectarianism in Northern Ireland. These organizations are attempting to bridge the gap of historical prejudice between the two religious communities.


Scotland suffers from a spill-over of Northern Irish sectarianism due to the many people with links to both communities living in the country, particularly in the West. The Old Firm of Celtic and Rangers football clubs have provided a focus for this, with Rangers being the Protestant and Celtic the Catholic icon.

Both teams subscribe to government initiatives, and charities like the Nil by Mouth campaign are working in this area, but there are still some fans on both sides who sing sectarian songs and display slogans and images related to the conflict in Northern Ireland. Celtic recently wrote to every season ticket holder banning sectarian behaviour at Celtic Park. Rangers' equivalent anti-sectarian policy is called Pride Over Prejudice [,,5~388398,00.html] .

Even in recent years, deaths and serious injuries have taken place after Old Firm matches. []

Sunni-Shia conflicts

Sectarian violence between two major Sects of Islam i.e., Shia and Sunni has occurred in countries like Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Lebanon etc. This violent conflict has roots in the political turmoil arising out of differences over succession to the leadership of the state of Medina at the demise of Muhammad. Ali bin Abi Talib (Radiallahu Anhu), cousin of the Prophet had claim to the throne by the virtue of his blood relations, whereas Umar Bin Khitab (RA) wanted Abu Bakr (RA) to be the heir to the throne. The latter was successful and Abu Bakr was appointed the first pious Caliph of Islam, and after him Hadhrat Umar was appointed the second pious Caliph. By this time the group--who considered Ali to be the true successor to the pulpit of caliphate--had come to be known as "Shiian-e-Ali "Party of Ali". Hazrat Ali ascended to the pulpit of caliphate only at the demise of the third caliph Hadhrat Uthman bin Affan (RA). However at this Amir Muawiya bin Abu Sufian (RA) by then the governor of Syria, accompanied by Many of the personalities who earlier had supported Abu Bakr, challenged the Ali's credential to assume the highest political position in the Islamic State and proclaimed himself the Caliph. This was due to the fact that Ali (RA)insisted on dealing with the murderers of the third pious Kaliph, Usman (RA) after he had himself settled down as the Caliph while Muawiya bin Abu Sufian (RA) along with many other companions insisted on an immediate action against the culprits. The situation detoriated further when many of those responsible for the death of Usman (RA) rallied behind Ali (RA). Later a venemous conspiracy by the Jews, led to a bloody war. However later on, a both the parties agreed to have a some one as a judge between them. This led to the seperation of an extremist group known as Khwarijis from Ali's (RA) army (currently inhinbing State of Aman in the Gulf), which pronounced the judgement belonged to Allah alone. A member of this group later assassinated Ali. At the demise of Muawiya he appointed his son Yazeed as his successor. The credentials of Yazeed were challenged by Ali's son Hussain (RA)and grand maternal son of Prophet Muhammad. A tragic battle at Karbala in Iraq led to the martyrdom of Hussain and dozens of others from "Ahle-e-Bait" (the members of the family of the prophet).

This tragic incident created deep fissures in the Muslim society. The conflict that had started at a political plane intervened with the dogma and belief systems. Those who considered Ali to be the true heir to the Caliphate split away from the main corpus of Muslim society and traditions. They developed their distinct sect, known as "Shia" referring to Shian-e-Ali. The Majority of Muslims are known as "Sunni" meaning "followers of the Traditions of The Prophet". They are of the view that the bloody conflict between Ali (RA) and Muawiya (RA) was a result of a tragic misunderstanding and regardless of who was wrong, the matter should have been solved peacefully.

In Pakistan sectarianism exhibited its first organized nature in early 1980 when two rival organizations were established: Tanzeem Fiqha Jaafriya (TFJ) (Organization of the Jafri (Shia) Law) represented Shia communities, and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) (Guardian of the Companions of the Prophet) representing Sunnis. The first major incident of this sectarian violence was killing of the Allama Arif Hussain Al Hussaini, founding leader of TFJ in 1986. In retaliation Haq Nawaz Jhangwi, founder of the (SSP) was murdered. Since then internecine bloody vendetta has ensued. The focus of this violence has been Kuuram Agency, Hangu, Dera Ismail Khan, Bahawalpur, Jhang, Quetta, and Karachi.

The transformation of the sectarian conflict to a violent civil war in Pakistan coincided with the establishment of the Islamic Repulic in Iran and promotion of the Sunni religion and its incorporation in the state institutions by General Zia-ul-Haq, regime in Pakistan.

The Iranian revolution was led by Shia clerics, and it influenced Shia communities all over the world. In Pakistan Tanzeem-e-Fiqh Jafriya was established with the demands of enforcing the Shia Law. This demand was viewed as detrimental by the Sunni religious leaders. In response SSP was established by the Sunni extremist clerics. Many of these clerics had a back ground in the sectarian strife against the Ahmadis (a heterodox sect considered non-Muslim by majority of the Orthodox Schools)

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