Social Science Research Council Research AMP Mediawell

The New Sectarianism: The Arab Uprisings and the Rebirth of the Shi‘a-Sunni Divide

Abdo, Geneive

This paper examines the rise of the new sectarianism within the Arab world, specifically looking at Bahrain, Lebanon and Iran, and offers key policy recommendations for the United States. In the midst of the Arab Awakening, there is a new Sunni-Shi’a divide which has greatly complicated the diplomatic and geopolitical challenges facing the United States by demanding that serious consideration be given to religious difference in its own right, and not simply as an epiphenomenon stemming from social, economic, or political contestation. Religion, gender, and ethnicity play a far more prominent role in determining social and political interaction than in the past.