Secular Right | Reality & Reason



Prince & bishop

One of the major back stories about Bahrain is the disjunction between the religious confession of the ruling family, and the populace. The elite and the monarchy are Sunni, while the masses are Shia. This is of a piece with the nearly 1,000 years of rule of the Arab Shia by Sunni monarchs since the fall of the Fatimid dynasty of Egypt (who were Shia sectarians). Yes, there were pockets of Shia Arab rule such as the highlands of Yemen, but by and large the Shia Arabs had to look to outsiders, such as the Shia of Iran from the 16th century on, to protect their interests. Even where they were a majority, as in much of the Persian Gulf and in Iraq, it was the assumption that Sunnis would rule. That order seems to be collapsing. Syria has long between dominated by a quasi-Shia Alawite minority, and has been Iran’s ally in the Arab world, both due to geopolitics (similar to the alliance of Scotland and France against England), as well as the common distrust of Sunni radicalism. Iraq in 2003 shifted from Sunni domination to mass rule of the Shia. Finally, Lebanon seems to have switched from a de facto Maronite-Sunni condominium to a polity directed by the cohesive collective action by the Shia (possibly a plural majority). This is the “Shia Crescent,” stretching from Iran to the Mediterranean. The main exception to this is the Persian Gulf proper, where large Shia populations are dominated culturally, politically, and socially, by Sunni elites in eastern Arabia, as they have been from time immemorial. How sustainable is this?

Does it matter? All I can say is that the Al Khalifa should remember that Paris was worth a  mass.


  • MarkE · February 21, 2011 at 5:36 am

    Those of us with a more or less traditional Western education (and who haven’t studied the Islamic world) are all at sea with these sorts of topics. Speaking for myself, I just have no *feel* for what is happening in the Middle East. I am puzzled by your reference to “Sunni radicalism”.

  • Author comment by David Hume · February 21, 2011 at 7:10 am

    I am puzzled by your reference to “Sunni radicalism”.

    this is a start, but not the “answer”:

    after the iranian revolution there was the possible specter of unified islamic radicalism (supported in part by the iranian regime’s rhetoric). but hama put an end to that, as iran stood by its traditional ally, the secular syrian regime which was dominated by a minority heterodox sect which has also sheltered other religious minorities.

    i greatly respect those who admit ignorance, as i am an ignorant about much myself. it shows great wisdom. unfortunately, most people are semi-sentient fools who can barely comprehend the depth of their ignorance.

  • SFG · February 21, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    Sailer’s spun this as a quasi-ethnic conflict with sunnis ruling a shiite populace. Makes as much sense to me as anything else.

  • Polichinello · February 21, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    All I can say is that the Al Khalifa should remember that Paris was worth a mass.

    Well, that really didn’t work out too well in the end for Henry…

  • Author comment by David Hume · February 22, 2011 at 3:19 am

    the bourbons lasted quite a while longer though….



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