Conflicts in Sunni Political Islam and Their Implications

Mohammed Nuruzzaman is Associate Professor of International Relations at the Gulf University for Science and Technology, Mishref, Kuwait.
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  • May 2017

    Traditionally, the Shi’a–Sunni divide and the associated dynamics of the geopolitical struggle for power and dominance, between the minority Shi’as and the majority Sunnis, have defined intra-Islamic relations. Often sidelined were the political differences between and among groups and movements within Shi’a as well as Sunni Islam. This essay seeks to examine the ideological and political conflicts between the two dominant brands of Sunni political Islam—the conservative Islamists led by Saudi Arabia and the militant Islamists who grouped first under the banner of al-Qaeda and later the Islamic State. It briefly traces the origins of both brands of Sunni political Islam, maps out their goals and strategies, and highlights their implications for the Middle East region and the West at large. The essay concludes that militant Sunni political Islam has emerged as a dominant entity and it poses the most dreadful challenge to the contemporary Middle East region and the West.