How safe is it to be Sunni in a Shiite country and vice versa?

I know, we’re talking about numerous, diverse, different Islamic countries, governments, societies, populations…but generally speaking, how safe is it to be Sunni in a Shiite country and vice versa?
Do Sunnis and Shiites venomously loathe each other, or just mildly disapprove?

The only factual answer is ‘it depends’. In some Muslim countries, such as Indonesia, it’s not really an issue, but for others, such as Iraq, it can be dangerous to be caught in the wrong neighborhood.

Shocking as it may seem intermarriage between Sunnis and Shiites is relatively common. Did you know in Syria that Bashar al-Assad’s wife is a Sunni?

Wiki has a broad overview of Sunni-Shia relations. For Shia in Sunni majority countries anti-Shia persecution carries on to this day, there are wiki links to particular problems Shia face in Sunni majority countries. Rafidah, ‘rejectors’, is the derogatory term used.

There is a Sunni minority living in Iran, for whom life isn’t made easy either;

I remember it was said that Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland could tell in an instant which was which, although I never understood quite how. Is it the same with Sunnis and Shiahs living in the same country?

It’s like bloods and crips in the US. Everyone knows it’s dumber than shit but it’s life and death to them.

Define a “Shia” or a “Sunni” country and I’ll get back to you.

I was thinking the same analogy.

To many in our generation, at least where I live, the thought of there even being any sort of difference between a Catholic or a Protestant is somewhat laughable.

Not for my Mother who grew up in Northeast Philadelphia and suburbs in the 40s-50s as a Protestant and you just didn’t associate or at the very least, like Catholics. She told me stories about how she rooted for the Phillies because the A’s were the “Catholic” team in town.

Even in a neighborhood we lived in the early 80s in suburban Philly, when I had some trouble with some neighborhood kids, my Mom would blame it from them coming from Catholic families and would bitch about all the hullabaloo about the Popes visit in 1978, wondering why it was such a big deal on the news but no one made a big deal when a major Protestant official was in town.

Even up to my wedding in 2000, my Mother-in-Law is Catholic, and my mother preached to me to not let her “get her way like the Catholics always do” and force us to marry Catholic. (I didn’t care, but my wife broke off from the church because she felt it was misogynist and we got married Episcopalian, anyway :))

I imagine this is kinda what its like in many Shia v Sunni communities.

In the US, I’ve known Shia & Sunni Muslim co-workers who got along just great.

Colonial powers–or others seeking political advantage–have been known to encourage sectarian differences. Divide & conquer.

Names, school, and area they live or grew up give clear (although rarely 100% certain) indicators that someone is from either background.

Some claim and claimed there was or is a Catholic or Protestant look but I call bullshit on it. I’ve heard it said that having blond hair marks someone out as being Protestant and there are running jokes about people’s eyes being closer together/farther apart if they’re one or the other but I’ve never heard a consistent, definitive description of what divides the look of one group from another. There’s even the term “left footer”, but it isn’t universal which group ARE the left footers.

As regards walking down a street on the wrong side of town during the Troubles. I think the fact that you weren’t local in many instances might have been enough to attract unwanted attention, it might be established from further probing whether you where a left footer or a right footer.

Or just a friendly tourist staying in Lisburn.

As someone who is descended from both Irish Protestants and Irish Catholics (which in the US is no big deal at all), I’ve wondered how I would have fared in Belfast during the Troubles. Was there really a lot of street violence against unarmed neighborhood visitors, or was it more ordered and gentlemanly with rules of engagement, etc. and protections for innocent civilians?

How would a “mixed” foreign tourist be seen in those days in terms of alignment? Would it be based on a perception (right or wrong) of the person’s ancestry? Based on the person’s current religious affiliation? Left alone unless obviously violent? Free-for-all target?

I don’t know what risk you ran in Belfast during the worst of the Troubles, although even in 1972, the worst year of the conflict, fewer than 500 people were killed, so it strikes me that the risk was pretty low. There was presumably always the risk of being caught in a bomb or catching a stray bullet but I think if you kept your wits about you the likelihood of you being targeted by one or other group was fairly small.

I get the impression that obviously foreign tourists (that is if your accent was obviously non-local) were considered “neutral” but I wasn’t alive during much of the period nor have I ever lived in Belfast, a Northern Irish poster might have a more accurate perspective on it. I’d be curious to hear of instances where tourists were accosted and confirmed to be be non-locals and let go, not sure if it ever happened.

I don’t recall too many tourists having been killed during the period, the only ones I recall off the top of my head were Fernando Blasco Baselga ( a 12 year old language exchange student from Madrid) and Rocio Abad Ramos (a 23 year old Spanish woman working with an Irish-Spanish exchange programme) who were killed in the Omagh bombing in 1998.

I worked in Iraq in 2003-2004 and again in 2006 implementing community development projects. A focus of my work was implementing community projects that required and encouraged cooperation among community members (kind of forming proto-PTA, or home owner associations). So I worked a lot at the grass roots level with communities all over Baghdad.

At first the Sunni-Shia split wasn’t that pronounced, it was there, but by 2006 extremists were forcing you through violence to choose sides, there would be no more mixing of the sects. One of my colleagues was a Sunni married to a Shiite woman, he went to visit his in-laws in a Shia neighborhood and when he came out, Shia extremists were waiting for him, they snatched him, took him to the local police station (Baghdad police were dominated by Shia extremists at that time) and tortured him to death with a power drill; dumped his body near the entrance to our office as a warning to people who would not stick with their own.

At the same time, extremists were moving into previously mixed neighborhoods after the previous occupants had fled and establishing new, sect based enclaves that were “pure.” I’m sure a lot of people who ended up in these enclaves did so because they felt they had now choice. Now, a decade later, there has been a decade of atrocities on all sides that further drives the wedge.

It is my unscientific observation that a lot of the mixed sect marriages and neighborhoods were made up of professional class people (doctors, lawyers, engineers) and that the extremists agitating for an increase in sectarian purity came from the lower classes. It seems to me that there is an economic class tension buried somewhere in all this, but I can’t quite articulate it better than that.

Now, what negative perceptions do they hold exactly?

Sunnis think Shiites are ‘heretics,’ a religious cancer that must not grow?

Shiites think Sunnis are the oppressive majority, that Shiites are a valiant noble underdog?

Yes, I rememeber being a lurker here and reading your posts and realising how bad it was getting.

Of course the fault is ultimately with the U.S and its encouraging of sectarian tensions such as Bremer ordering that all Iraqis be identified by sect and promotingpeople based upon ethnic and sectarian identifties.

It would depend on the country. In some countries, it’s not that big of a deal, in others it is part an element of a civil war.

For Iraq, this American Life did an excellent piece on the recent sectarian divide. I had to turn it off because it was to upsetting, but that’s more an endorsement of its quality and my shortcomings than anything else. http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/416/transcript

This is very true, take Iraq for example. I would wager that most do not kind or even give much thought to this. The media is also to blame, always blaming and labeling. Such as “Sunni” Sudan and “Shia Azerbaijan” and so on. The west has also exacerbated it as well as regional governments. The Saudi monarchy, Iranian regime, policies under Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq.

What also annoys me is that when I read an article on say Lebanon, and it makes a broad, sweeping statement such as “the Sunnis generally support the rebels in Syria, while Shias are seen as backing Assad”.

Excuse me, I’m pretty positive that opinions vary across various communities regarding different issues. The west labels the Middle East and it’s people a lot also.

Just out of curiosity but was your family middle class or better? The reason I ask is Protestant-Catholic friction used to be a thin cover for class and ethnic warfare.

These people lived mostly peacefully together for hundreds of years. It was Western imperialism which worked to create divisions to better rule over people. British imperialism did the same in India.