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The Interesting Role of the Iqwan in Sunni-Shi'ia Reconciliation
The Muslim Brotherhood, through its chief spokesperson Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, is working overtime to try to reconcile Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims, particularly in the efforts to support Hezbollah in Lebanon. This puts the international Muslim Brotherhood in direct opposition to the stance taken by Zarqawi in Iraq and other Sunni armed groups that condemn the Shi'ite as heretics and infidels.

This role of mediation for the greater good of Islam-in this case, to support Hezbollah in Lebanon-is a hallmark of the Iqwan's role in the Islamist world. As my colleague Zeyno Baran at the Counterterrorism Blog pointed out, the Lebanese Brothers are making known that they, as Sunnis, are fighting beside Hezbollah with "military combatant units." As she correctly points out, it is the first time on record that the Iqwan have publicly acknowledged having an armed branch that is operational.

How the Sunni and Shi'ite Islamists, with similar agendas and sharply different theologies, react to the Lebanese crisis will be crucial in setting the course for future Islamist armed action.

There is no shortage of people on both sides wanting to attack the other. What makes Qaradawi's statements stand out is that he not only speaks for the Brotherhood, but like Yousef Nada and others, is welcome in Saudi Arabia and Tehran. If there is a way for the Sunnis to become larger players in the Lebanese conflict and any that bleed out of that war, it will be thanks to the Brotherhood's efforts.

In a recent Islam Online discussion Qaradawi listed the five principal points of agreement among Shi'ite and Sunnis, stressing that "the points of agreement are on the fundamental issues of religion, while the points of difference have to do with the minor ones."

Qaradawi also said: "Let it be known to all that the Shi`ah are Muslims who believe in the Oneness of Allah and the Prophethood of Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).

"Yes, there is no doubt that the Shi`ah have their beliefs and dogmas which we condemn as heresy but this doesn’t make them non-Muslims.

"We should try to make use of what we have in common for the benefit of all Muslims. No one can deny that all Muslims, Sunni and Shi`ah, condemn the Zionists and what they do against our brethren in Palestine. We maintain the same view concerning the persecution of Muslims in many parts of the world. This means that we have many things in common, which should be the pivot of our interaction.

"All Muslims should be alert against the schemes and plots planned by the enemies of Islam. They are the ones that want us to disagree and fight each other. Now they resort to another scheme by filling our minds with hatred against one another under the name of belief. We should not give them this chance."

The Brotherhood is one of the few international organizations able to keep its eye on the long-term, rather than focusing almost exclusively on the crisis de jour. Their leaders understand that united Islamists from all sects are the greatest danger to their enemies, Israel and the United States. How much influence they have to bring about that reconciliation is the question.
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