Islam: Sunnis and Shiites
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
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The majority of the worlds Muslim population follows the Sunni branch of Islam, and approximately 10-15 of all Muslims follow the Shiite Shiite, Shia, Shia branch. Shiite populations constitute a majority in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, and Azerbaijan. There are also significant Shiite populations in Afghanistan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen. Sunnis and Shiites share most basic religious tenets. However, their differences sometimes have been the basis for religious intolerance, political infighting, and sectarian violence. This report includes a historical background of the Sunni-Shiite split and discusses the differences in religious beliefs and practices between and within each Islamic sect as well as their similarities. The report also relates Sunni and Shiite religious beliefs to discussions of terrorism and Iraq that may be of interest during the first session of the 110th Congress. This report will be updated as necessary. Related papers include CRS Report RS21432 and CRS Report RS21695.
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