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Choosing a Sect

Author: Noah Feldman
March 4, 2007
The New York Times Magazine

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As the Sunni-Shiite conflict inIraq polarizes Muslims across the globe, theUnited States finds itself in the odd position of seeming to favor a Shiite government in Iraqand Sunni leaders everywhere else. As a result, there has been a lot of loose talk in policy circles recently about how the United States should finally choose sides. After all, the rift between the two denominations is almost as old as Islam itself—and so is unlikely to close soon. What began more than 1,300 years ago as an argument over whether the Prophet Muhammad should be succeeded by his cousin Ali or by an unrelated companion became a bloody civil war, then hardened over time into a theological split. As another civil war worsens in Iraq, the argument goes, America should pick a winner and back it to the hilt.

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