The Sunni-Shia Conversion Controversy

by Israel Elad-Altman Foreign Policy

Sunnis have converted to Shiism in the past, and their conversions neither attracted much attention nor generated heated public debate. The current debate is indicative of the current state of politics in the region. For the rising Shi'a, religion has become an important political tool, and Sunni Islamist reactions to this fact differ from one arena to another, depending on the degree to which religion has become politicized. But the more the Sunni-Shi'a issue is framed as an Iranian-Arab contest, the more Arab Sunni forces now aligned with Iran will come under pressure to change their strategy. Arab Shi'a communities in Sunni-majority or Sunni-ruled countries, like those of the Gulf Cooperation Council, may also well become the target of growing Sunni suspicion and animosity, possibly pushing them to radicalization in a kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy.