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HomeGlobal Perspective & Critical ResearchThe lesser threat: How the Muslim Brotherhood views Shias and Shiism

The lesser threat: How the Muslim Brotherhood views Shias and Shiism

Author: Shadi Hamid

Affiliation: Brookings Institution

Organization/Publisher: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group

Date/Place: March 10, 2020/ Washington DC, USA

Type of Literature:  Article

Number of Pages: 6


Keywords: Muslim Brotherhood, Sunni, Shiism, Religion, Theology. 


Shadi Hamid explores the views of Muslim Brotherhood movements and Brotherhood-inspired groups towards Shias and Shiism. Hamid discusses how different Muslim Brotherhood groups with similar ideological orientations are divergent in their views towards Shiism. He claims that there is little “doctrinal” divergence between these various groups. However, the author argues that variant Brotherhood attitudes toward Shiism are mainly determined by the political environment as well as the geopolitical context at a point of time. To explain that, the article investigates the different positions of Brotherhood groups starting from Egypt to Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, Iraq, Bahrain, and Kuwait. Based on these examples, Hamid proposes that the motivation or determinant of Sunni Islamists’ attitudes towards Shiism is mainly a political element or environment. In other words, sectarianization is derived by political or geopolitical factors, including civil war or armed conflicts, more than theological differences. Hamid concludes that most of the Brotherhood organizations are theologically indifferent with Shiism, yet they are not pro-Shia. Brotherhood position toward Shiism is “somewhat outside of broader trends in the region.” Moreover, he highlights that intra-Sunni conflicts on the role of religion in public life is more critical than the conflicts between sects. The author underlines that these intra-Sunni conflicts along with a “survival imperative” in confrontation with their Sunni regimes are the substantial drivers of Brotherhood political paradigm of engagement; which indicates that Shias will continue to be the lesser threat, especially in an authoritarian context. Finally, he adds that the indifference of political and theological orientations towards Shias indicates the theological flexibility of the Brotherhood in comparison to Shias and other Sunni Islamist groups such as Salafi. Accordingly, religion to the Brotherhood is a “motivation or general guide for action.”

By: Yomna Süleyman, CIGA Research Assistant



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