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The reality check!

By: Nasir Ahmad Dar

The cold war between Saudi Arabia and Iran has turned hot in recent years and threatens a certain confrontation. This conflict has engulfed the entire Muslim community across the globe and most of the Muslims have started taking sides. Usually we will see people being cognitively biased towards one among these two on the basis of their sectarian affiliations. Thus most Shias would be seen supporting Iran and most Sunni take the side of Saudi Arabia. Before the war escalates to the heights of violence between the two middle-east nations let us take a step back and ask, “Is this really a war within the Muslim world where all Muslims have to pick a side?”

Here is a thing:

Most Muslims aren’t Saudi Arabians or Iranians. In fact most Muslims don’t even live in the middle-east. In terms of population Indonesia is the World’s biggest Muslim majority country with a population of over 209 million according to PEW. There are more Muslims in Hindu-majority nation India than there are in Saudi Arabia and Iran COMBINED! The most shocking fact is that the number of Muslims in India is almost double the number of Muslims in Saudi Arabia and Iran together.

So, it is not surprising that so many non Saudi and non Iranian Muslims across the globe are tired of being dragged into this ongoing spat between these bitter middle-east rivals. The situation is so bad that former President of United States of America had to call it a transformation that would play out for a generation drowned in conflicts that date back millenniums. How true is this tall claim by Obama? Here is a timeline of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran:

Prior to the Islamic revolution in 1979, Saudi Arabia had good relations with Iran’s secular ‘Shah’ despite Iran being majority Shia and Saudi being majority Sunni. As recently as 1999 Iranian President Mohammad Khatami visited Saudi Arabia to try and strengthen ties between the two countries. On his visit to Saudi Arabia the then Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal was quoted as saying, “There are no limits to cooperation with Iran”. The two sworn enemies even signed a security pact in 2001. In 2007 the gulf countries led by Saudi Arabia invited Mohammad Ahmedinejad to Saudi Arabia where the former Iranian President held hands with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Thus we can conclude that there have always been steps towards the good relations between these two countries.

However I am not saying that the relations haven’t severely been deteriorated in recent years. Of course they have! Leaked US cables suggested that the same King Abdullah in reference to Iranians later urged the US government to quote, “Cut-off the head of the snake”.  Also in the wake of Saudi Arabia’s beheading of a prominent Shia cleric recently the tension has grown manifolds. The Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei went on to warn Saudi Arabia of a “Divine Vengeance”.  There are many leaders in both countries who expect a certain confrontation between these two nations. The war between the two nations is obvious!

SO things are bad! Really bad! And, probably, only going to get worse. But remember they have not always been bad. And they are not bad because of some 1400 years old theological split. The sectarian differences between Iran and Saudi do not exist. This conflict has more to do with geo-politics, economics and security than the Islamic principles. The Muslims across the world are already suffering a lot and have a lot of enemies to distort their image on the international level. So we should immediately stop giving heed to a hypothetical Shia-Sunni conflict going on in middle-east and should start considering Iran-Saudi spat as just another strategic difference between two neighbors.  And most importantly their spat doesn’t have to, shouldn’t have to taint relations between Muslims across the globe. The vast majority of people who aren’t Iranians and aren’t Saudis should not fall prey to this conflict.  All the Muslims irrespective of their sectarian affiliations should live in Unity and fight for their rights in their respective countries. Muslims should fight Islamophobia rather than fighting each other. Muslims must start propagating a peaceful Islam which relinquishes the terrorism. There is a lot more to do for Muslims across the globe than to fight each other on the basis of some conflict going on in middle-east. The Shias and Sunnis are brothers. They have the same GOD, the same Quran, The same Prophet (s.a.w) and the same Prayer. They should concentrate more on peace and harmony. This is the only way for the Muslims if they want to lead a better future.

The writer is a former student of Sharda University and can be contacted reached at [email protected].

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