The bomb attack close to a revered shrine in Damascus, in Syria, claimed by the ‘Islamic State’, which killed over 50 people, is another reminder of the insane sectarian strife being played out in West Asia. In fact, after the execution of a Shia cleric by the Saudi authorities – and subsequent events, leading to the breaking of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran – this attack can now again mean a high in sectarian tensions within the Muslim community. All this also affects Kashmir, as was witnessed in the protests against the execution of the cleric in Saudi Arabia. Should Kashmiris, belonging to any sect or denomination, replay political events elsewhere to the point of hurting their own common interests? And how does one look at the real schism within Islam with a view to try and bridge it?
To try and answer the second question first, one way to look at things, perhaps simplistically, would be to imagine Shias and Sunnis in a marriage where the two parties have immense commonalities but serious differences, with no possibility whatsoever of a divorce. Commonsense would dictate the sole solution would be to learn tolerance and implement codes of mutually respectful cohabitation. It is also not rocket science to glean from history that the Shia-Sunni divide could arguably be called a political one, and that politics has played a key role in defining relations between the two denominations within Islam. From the 1930s to the Islamic revolution in Iran, from a commonality on the Khilafat movement, and attempts by, say, Al Azhar University and Ayatollah Khomeini to bridge the divide to the Iran-Iraq war – and then the faultlines being split open as a result of western intervention in Iraq and elsewhere in West Asia – it can be said that the political theatre has impinged a lot on the theological one; and the latter then is cited as itself being a key difference. To jump arguments, if politics is also the art of the possible, then surely it should be possible to work out or re-establish those codes of mutual respectful co-existence.
As for Kashmir, people should remember that this nation will sink or rise together, that it is even more absurd for Kashmiris to import sharp polarisations onto a social fabric of, largely, organic, shared existence; a society inimical forces have tried to split for long. Political developments must be analysed, not blindly replayed sans an understanding of what drives those developments elsewhere.