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The Shia Revival


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The New York Times Bestseller

About the Author

Vali Nasr is a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School and Senior Adjunct Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Born in Iran, he now lives in La Jolla, California.


The war in Iraq has by now made it abundantly clear that the struggle for the soul of that country goes beyond good vs. evil or democracy vs. authoritarianism. What matters in the Middle East and what determines the region's future may well have more to do with Shia vs. Sunni, Arab vs. Persian, Kurd vs. Arab, and other such internal cleavages. More specifically, as the subtitle of this book indicates, conflicts within Islam will likely play a significantly larger role in determining the Middle East's future than what happens between the countries of the region and the outside world. This timely and important book sheds light on an enduring conflict within Islam-the historic divide between its Shia and Sunni branches. Although Sunnis make up the majority of Muslims, the Shia, suppressed by Saddam Hussein, make up over 60 percent of Iraq's population. Nasr (Middle East & South Asia politics, Dept. of National Security, Naval Postgraduate Sch.), who has published extensively on politics and religion in South Asia and the Middle East, explains the genesis and specific development of Shia Islam and the making of Shia politics in the contemporary Middle East. The entrenched historical, theological, and political disputes within Islam are analyzed here in an eminently readable and informative book that should be read by both policymakers and informed Western readers. Highly recommended for all public and academic libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/06.]-Nader Entessar, Spring Hill Coll., Mobile, AL Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"Provocative." -- Thomas L. Friedman - New York Times "Brilliant and very readable." -- Trudy Rubin - Philadelphia Inquirer "[A] must-read for those who find themselves perplexed about the sectarian violence in Iraq, the unpredictable politics of Iran, and the suddenly resurgent Hezbollah in Lebanon." -- Robert Hunt - Dallas Morning News "Smart, clear and timely." -- Warren Bass - Washington Post "Fast moving, engaging and ultimately unnerving... The Shia Revival is at its most provocative when exposing how the Sunni-Shiite power imbalance seeps out of classrooms and infects life on the ground." -- Irshad Manji - New York Times Book Review "This book offers compelling corrective reading... Broad-ranging and detailed, but still eminently readable." -- L. Carl Brown - Foreign Affairs

One of the least remarked upon aspects of the war in Iraq, at least in the American press, has been how conflict and instability in that country have shaken the delicate balance of power between Sunni and Shia throughout the wider region. Nasr, professor of Middle East and South Asia politics at the Naval Postgraduate School, tackles this question head-on for a Western audience. His account begins with a cogent, engrossing introduction to the history and theology of Shia Islam, encapsulating the intellectual and political trends that have shaped the faith and its relations with the dominant Sunni strain. Nasr argues that the Shia Crescent--stretching from Lebanon and Syria through the Gulf to Iraq and Iran, finally terminating in Pakistan and India--is gathering strength in the aftermath of Saddam's fall, cementing linkages that transcend political and linguistic borders and could lead to a new map of the Middle East. While Nasr's enthusiasm for Iraq's Shiite leader Ayatollah Sistani sometimes borders on the hagiographic, his book is worthwhile reading for those seeking a primer on the second-largest Muslim sect. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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