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Shia Revival

The Iranian author, Vali Nasr, has written an interesting book called The Shia Revival: How conflicts within Islam will shape the future.  Its argument is exceptionally pertinent at a time when European governments are edging toward arming Sunni extremists in Syria.
Nasr portrays Shiism as the more liberal, palatable strand of Islam and a religion for underdogs.  He makes his point persuasively, although putting a progressive gloss on the regime in Iran and Hezbollah does undermine his thesis.
A lot of the material is focussed on Iraq, where there is a Shia majority, which was suppressed during the presidency of Saddam Hussein.  The leading cleric, Ayatollah Sistani, is depicted as a moderating influence, who opposed retaliation as Sunni extremism threatened to cause sectarian civil war.
The book’s opening chapter provides an erudite and fascinating history of factions within Islam.  The split dates back to the origins of the faith and a dispute over the prophet Mohammed’s successor.  Th…