• Kail C. Ellis
Part of the Minorities in West Asia and North Africa book series (MWANA)


This chapter examines the inadequacy of Shia–Sunni rivalry as shorthand to explain the current upheaval in Middle East. Its depiction as ideological (religious) rather than pragmatic, that is, an Arab–Persian rivalry, is questionable. The theory of “sectarianization” to explain authoritarian regimes’ manipulation of sectarian identities, and the resulting economic stagnation as the heart of social and political instability in the Middle East, is more convincing. However, portraying Christians as “victims” and “minorities” distorts their historic role and contributions to Arab and Islamic society. Caution is needed before engaging in the “duty to protect” through military intervention and the establishment of safe zones, as they are imperfect means to protect vulnerable groups.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kail C. Ellis
    • 1
  1. 1.Arab & Islamic StudiesVillanova UniversityVillanovaUSA

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