Shades of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula
Wahhabism, an ultraconservative doctrine linked to Sunni Islam, is embraced by about a quarter of the Saudi population, according to Michael Izady, a historian and cultural geographer who has mapped ethnicity and religion for Columbia University. But many Saudis are not so conservative and the country also has a sizeable Shiite minority. Saudi Arabia’s mass execution of 47 men on terrorism-related charges last week included Sunnis and Shiites.
The Shiite Presence Beyond Iran
There are about three Shiites for every five Sunnis in the Middle East. Most of the Shiites are in Iran, but they are also the majority in countries like Azerbaijan, Bahrain and Iraq, and are a significant political and military force in Lebanon and Syria.
Iran is also home to about eight million Sunnis who make up about 11 percent of the population. The country is accused of supporting the Shiite Houthi insurgents in Yemen and of fomenting Shiite opposition in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. It is a key supporter of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia, and of president Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
New York Times 2016
© Adapted by Vlad Gonta