4 credit hours
Since the Iranian Revolution and the onset of the Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union, intra-Muslim sectarian conflict has been a principal driver in the growth of Islamist militancy and global jihadism. The Sunni-Shi‘i rivalry fueled by the competition between the Sunni theocratic regime in Saudi Arabia and the Shi’i theocratic regime in Iran to establish spheres of influence has empowered the rise of Islamist extremism and violence from West Africa to South East Asia. This seminar will examine how doctrinal and ritual differences among Muslims are mobilized for political gain. Students will learn how to analyze the dynamics of sectarian mobilization through a close analysis of case studies which will include Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, and the Arab Gulf states. The course will examine how sectarian mobilization continues to play a critical role in the growth of the Taliban as well as regionally based jihadists movements affiliated with Al-Qaeda. The Middle Eastern influence in sectarian conflict in other countries, such as Nigeria and Indonesia, will also be analyzed. Finally, the course will consider the new and more complicated phase of the Sunni-Shi‘a rivalry in light of Iran’s seemingly immanent acquisition of nuclear weapons and the proliferation of Sunni Islamist regimes in the Middle East as a result of the Arab Spring. Special attention will be given to events unfolding in Syria and Lebanon.