Cultural expressions are main identifiers of any ethnic group for they give communities their real identities as concerns specific communities’ fears, values and strengths. In addition, these cultural expressions determine how communities perceive other communities with differing cultures hence, forming the foundation of a group’s understanding of other communities motives and dealings.
It is important o note here that, primarily these forms of expressions are main inhibitors or accelerators of ethnic conflicts because all communities are in a struggle to receive recognition from any community they get in contact with (Ross, 2007, pp. 3-5).
Currently globally, the human race faces many threats due to many differences that are arising in most societies. Most of these differences are political, social or cultural driven. Depending on an individuals background many factors arise for example ethnocentrism, religious extremism, doubt and prejudice, hence leading to escalation of war among different communities.
In addition, currently the main contributor of the rapidly increasing rate of war between communities is lack of proper mechanisms of forecasting, managing, and dealing with any conflicts that are likely to arise between communities.
It is important to also note that ethnic conflicts not only pose dangers to national security, but also they pose great threats to global security, a factor compounded by ideological differences among different global communities (Saha, 2006 , pp.172-174). A good example is the Sunni and Shiite war that has caused a great deal of havoc not only among the Muslim community but also to the global peace.
This is because these two communities have differing ideological views, hence the struggle for cultural identity and recognition. In addition, in many ways many other international communities have greatly contributed to this ethnic conflict, because of the divided nature of support they accord these two communities (Horowitz, 2000, pp. 1-4).
The Sunni and the Shiite are the two main Islamic groups, although the Sunnis are many as compared to the Shiite population. Majority of the Shiite Muslims follow the Twelver culture, a factor that differentiates them from Sunnis who have many differentiated cultural orientations, depending on their location globally.
Although these differentiations occur between these two factions, same religious beliefs direct their daily lives although some few ideological differences exist. For example, the Sunni believe that the Shiite accord Ali and Islam more power, something they are supposed to accord Hussein. This and many other factors are main contributors to the escalating cultural conflict between these two communities as each struggle to receive recognition both nationally and in internationally (Fay, 2009, pp. 1-2).
These two groups broke ranks almost immediately after Prophet Mohammed’s demise. Because the two groups wanted recognition, they started fighting on who was to inherit the Islam’s leadership powers. Previously these religious groups had leaders who belonged to the Caliph group; a group that had no ties with the prophet. Due to these ideological differences, war erupted between these groups leading to the death of many caliphs, a factor that increased the division.
This is because after the third death the Shiites isolated themselves, hence supporting Ali to take the religion’s leadership a factor that contradicted with Sunnis belief that the rightful inheritor of the leadership was Abu Bakr; someone they perceived as the apt successor. In addition, due to varying ideological differences on the succession mechanism of the leadership cause even more divisions because the Shiites s believed Ali’s family being the royal family, his descendants were to take over leadership.
The Sunnis opposed this because they believed that, application of agreement was the only way of solving the leadership dilemma. Owing to their majority in number, the fight for recognition made the Sunnis to want to take precedence in anything that concerns the Islamic religion, something that has caused a great bloodshed because the Shiites also want to rule (Boeree, 2009, p.1).
This two community’s orientation of the Islamic beliefs to is some extent different, hence, leading to many arguments on what in reality the Islamic religion entails. The Sunnis perceive the Shiites as “internal fighters,” in that their main aim is to defeat the Sunnis instead of the ensuring the Islamic culture spreads through the world.
On the other hand, because the Shiites believe they are the true inheritors of the Muslim kingdom, egocentrism act as their main driving force with the notion that; if they force their values to all Islamic believers, then the religion is bound to spread globally. This forms a major cause of the escalating wars because one the Sunnis believe in many ways the Shiites violate Muhammad’s wisdom, something that forms the foundation of their existence.
In any society, laws are the main determinant of any values that members of that community embrace. The case is the same with Islam, a religion that believes in various schools of laws. There exist clear differences on the emphasis these two factions accord these schools of law. The Sunnis’ doctrines strictly adhere to provisions in these schools of law, hence making its ruling structure more flexible; a fact that accords the state more control power as compared to religious leaderships.
This is contrary to the Shiite’s power structures, which accord the Imams (Muslim leaders) power to dictate or take the overall decision-making position. This two groups lack mechanisms of settling their religious differences because each want to rule by overthrowing each other; factor that has caused many deaths and destruction of property resulting from suicide bombers and other fighting mechanisms.
Between these two communities, there exist sects and ethnic groups that have helped to articulate values and norms of their political divide. Examples of these groups include the Assyrian, Kurdish, and the Turkoman. These groups in many ways have influenced the nature of practices these two sides follow. For example, some Shiite sects believe in martyrdom a practice that traces its roots to past conflicts with the Sunnis.
Other groups for example, the Wahhabi follow radical fundamentalism principles, hence lay less emphasis on Islamic holy books. In addition, these group’s believes and interpretations of the Koran vary something that has led to a blame game on who is right leading to many conflicts (Fay, 2009, pp.5-7).
The external communities also have had some impacts on the nature of the relationships that exist between these two communities. Currently, these two groups receive varying support from different nations, the primary nation being the United States.
Currently there exist heightened tensions between these two groups, something that the U.S. has contributed a lot to since the onset of attacks on Middle East countries primarily Iraqi. To America, it wanted to instill democracy in many Middle East countries, something that prompted the Islamic community to revolt.
This is because to them America wanted to bring in western values in an Islamic country. In addition, the fact that, most international communities have taken sides on this war makes it worse because the two factions receive varying support from international communities (Fay, 2009, pp. 9-11).
An example is the Kurds; an Iraq ethnic group that whose majority of its member are Sunnis with few Shiites and Yazidi. Because this group is associated with Saddam Hussein, majority of western countries do not support it; primarily the U.S., a factor that has led to continuous divisions between the Shiites and Sunnis, hence the escalating differences (Dodge, 2007, pp. 87-94).
Another country that has influenced the war is Iran. Majority of Iranian civilians and leaders are Shiites, hence it has always influenced its members in whatever country they are to fight and take control of the power structures, a factor whose impact is great as concerns the war between these two communities.
In conclusion, although the conflict between the Sunni and the Shiite seems to be an ethnic war that started long time ago, many external forces have contributed greatly to its development, a factor that many nations fail to recognize. Hence, it is important for all nations to re-examine the nature of support they give different communities, for in many ways it influences the nature of relationships between this communities.
Boeree, G. C. (2009). Sunnis and Shiites. Retrieved February 9, 2010, from
Dodge, T. (2007). The causes of U.S. failure in Iraq. Survival, 49(1), 85-106.
Fay, A. (2009). The Sunni-Shiite conflict. Retrieved February 9, 2010, from,
Horowitz, D. L. (2000). Ethnic groups. London: University of California press.
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Ross, H. M. (2007). Cultural contestation in ethnic conflict. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved February 8, 2010, from
Saha, S. C. (2006). Perspectives on contemporary ethnic conflict: primal violence or the politics of conviction New York: Lexington publishers. Retrieved February 9, 2010, from,