Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Saudi summit is an opportunity to bridge divide

The sectarian lens in Syria and elsewhere obscures a more complex situation - Syrians have been living shoulder by shoulder for millennia, after all.

As the violence in Syria worsens, the conflict is increasingly being cast a sectarian war. But that is a misreading of the dynamics: this is a war between a despotic family regime and a disparate and disorganised opposition. The regime has recruited from its own Alawite sect, but as our columnist Faisal Al Yafai notes in these pages, sectarianism did not cause this conflict.

But as that narrative continues to solidify, the sectarian lens in Syria and elsewhere obscures a more complex situation - Syrians have been living shoulder by shoulder for millennia, after all. There are different ways to define the divide: Sunni versus Shiite, or even simplistically as Saudi Arabia versus Iran. Those perspectives are myopic, but the rhetoric of sectarian enmity feeds upon itself.

At the same time, there is a worrying trend of sectarian tension, and not just in countries where uprisings have played their course. Bombings in Iraq that killed more than 100 people yesterday offered another grim reminder of the killings and reprisals that spiralled out of control in 2005. With regime change in Syria and Lebanon's ever-simmering mix, the Arab uprisings have only added to this poisonous sectarianism.

Over the past 18 months outside powers - both near and far - have played pivotol roles in revolutions in the Arab Spring. Sometimes their role has been passive, as in Egypt, and sometimes it has been active, as in Libya. That is realpolitik: countries have a stake in regional stability and - whether invited or not - will seek to influence events.

So the announcement by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on Sunday was tacit recognition of the interdependence of regional states, as well as a reminder of Saudi Arabia's prominent role in regional politics and regional affairs.

King Abdullah has called for an emergency summit of Muslim nations to be convened on August 14 to discuss "this delicate time as the Muslim world faces dangers of fragmentation and sedition".

Details of the proposed summit have yet to be released, but the region badly needs an inclusive and comprehensive dialogue on its challenges, sectarian and otherwise. Although the term "sedition" raises some concerns - the recent political unrest across the region has taught us that political outreach must be the first step - the goals of the dialogue must still be defined.

Saudi Arabia has long hosted Muslim nations for dialogue on political, social and religious issues. This summit must address this festering sectarian divide. The region needs it, and so does the world.

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Shah Rukh Khan performs at the IPL Gala dinner to open IPL VII at the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi.

In pictures: Shah Rukh Khan stars at IPL Gala dinner in Abu Dhabi

The superstar entertainer Shah Rukh Khan on stage last night at a gala dinner to launch the Indian Premier League cricket tournament.

No words can describe this April 17, your captions will

Have a catchy caption for this picture. Share it with us and we might publish it and reward you.

 When this 1856 British Guiana One-Cent Magenta stamp goes under the hammer at Sotheby’s in New York on June 17, it is expected to attract a world record bid for a single stamp of up to $20 million (Dh73.4m). Courtesy Sotheby’s

Rare 1856 stamp up for auction at Sotheby’s

This is one of the world’s rarest stamps and when it goes up for auction in June it should fetch $20million. Its history since it was issued in 1856 is fascinating – and includes one murderous chapter, as Jonathan Gornall reports

 This Dh17,000 Miele system can prepare your choice of coffee - from capuccino to espresso - at a touch of a button. Pawan Singh / The National

In pictures: Miele puts art in coffee making

Miele has devoted itself to the art of preparing the black liquid with its beautifully designed coffee machines, living up to its mantra of turning kitchens into cafés.

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 Amir Khan, during a workout at the Gloves Community Centre on March 24, 2014 in Bolton, England, says his fight will be the real main event in Las Vegas on May 3. Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Amir Khan says bout with Luis Collazo ‘will steal the show’ in Las Vegas on May 3

British-Pakistani boxer Amir Khan says his fight with Luis Collazo will be the main attraction on same fight card led by Floyd Mayweather Jr and Marcos Maidana, writes Omar Al Raisi.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National