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“Sunni-Shia Polarization in the Middle East” Discussed at TEPAV Prof. Dr. Onat: “For the first time, we are faced with the risk of a global sectarian tension.”
Haber resmi
03/07/2014 - Viewed 998 times

ANKARA - Prof. Dr. Hasan Onat, Head of Ankara University Faculty of Divinity Department of the History of Islamic Sects declared that sectarian tensions until recently had been local and small-scale and warned: “For the first time the Muslim world is faced with the risk of a global sectarian tension.”


A roundtable meeting entitled “Sunni-Shia Polarization in the Middle East” was held at TEPAV on Thursday, 3 July 2014. During the meeting moderated by TEPAV Research Associate Hüseyin Raşit Yılmaz, keynote speaker Prof. Dr. Hasan Onat addressed the new era in the Middle East which is driven by radical groups consolidated by the ongoing civil war in Syria and fed by political tensions in Iraq.

Portraying the rise of Islamic sects and their political influences with a historical perspective, Prof. Dr. Onat addressed the emergence of the Salafism and Shia. He cited examples of Jehadi, teological and political categories of Salafism that has been widespread across the Middle East. Onat also depicted the sources of and historical background for the religious motivations of radical terrorist groups, ISIS being chief among them.

Underlining that across the Muslim world, religion was considered a source of legitimacy for pursuing political interests; Onat cited such perception of legitimacy as one of the key reasons for the current situation in the Middle East. He recalled that Iran considered Nusayris non-religious before the civil war in Syria whereas it started to accept them under the Shia right after the crisis. Onat added that the interests of Saudi Arabia were involved in the picture in the name of sectarian legitimacy, and stressed that political choices had role in determining religious definitions.

Onat said that it was not possible to overthrow sects while explaining the Muslim world that sect per se was not religion could be a way out. He added, “Each sect in its mentality believes that other sects are condemned to hell. Yet, a person is a Muslim if he or she believes in the Quran. That’s why we need to build a consciousness upon the common ground of Islam.”

Stating that the Maturidite-Hanifite school Turks pursue accepts that everything other than the doctrines of the Quran is debatable, Onat said, “In the Maturidite perception, there is a certain separation between religion and politics. This perception reconciles with the common values of human rights, democracy and secularism.” Onat accentuated that Turkey was a historic actor that should avoid assuming any sectarian position.

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