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Speaker warns of potential civil war

Civil war between the Sunni and Shiite Muslims would likely result if the U.S. were to withdraw from Iraq prematurely.

Thomas Goutierre, from the Center for Afghan Studies at the University of Nebraska, said this civil war would result because of long-lasting tensions between the two tribes regarding who should rule the land and people.

“This civil war is not new to the area,” Goutierre said. “A civil war broke out almost immediately following Muhammad’s death.”

Wars broke out between the groups because of conflicting interests. The Shiite Muslims, who compose 60 percent of the Iraqi population, believe that descendants of the Prophet Muhammad should rule the land. Then the Sunni Muslims, who make up 20 percent of the population, think a vote is necessary to determine who will rule the people.

Goutierre said throughout history Sunni and Shiite Muslims have never integrated because of cultural tensions.

“There was an emphasis on ethnicity, not on uniting the tribes,” he said.

The Iraq situation becomes even more complicated when other Middle Eastern countries are brought into the equation. Since the population of Iraq is divided between the two groups it is important to look at which countries are likely to support each group because of tribal allegiances.

Iraq’s eastern neighbor, Iran, is 89 percent Shiite Muslim and makes up the center of the Shiite Islam world. Saudi Arabia, Iraq’s southern neighbor, makes up the center of the Sunni world, said Goutierre. This places Iraq between two countries whose populations don’t get along.

In Goutierre’s speech at the University on Friday he explained the struggle throughout the Muslim world is commonly misunderstood by the U.S. He said the American public was right in thinking Sadaam Hussein would eventually pose a treat to the U.S. but they were wrong on many other issues.

“The accusation that Osama bin Laden and Hussein had ties with each other is outrageous,” Goutierre said. “The U.S. has several other historical misunderstandings about the area.”

To combat these misunderstandings Jay Skock, senior, said the University should offer more classes so students can understand the issue in its full complexity.

It’s important to know the history of a country where your military is getting involved,” Skock said. “The University needs to offer classes that focus on the history and culture of the Middle East.”

Kristie Foell, director of international relations, said the reason why the University doesn’t offer more classes on the subject is because the University agreed with the University of Toledo that they would teach Arabic and BGSU would teach Chinese.

But, she said, just because the University doesn’t offer certain classes doesn’t mean that students aren’t interested in taking them.

“Students are always asking for specific classes that the University doesn’t offer,” Foell said.

The University does offer classes through the History department, but on average it comes out to be about one class a semester specifically dealing with Middle Eastern History.

This semester the University offered Islamic History and Culture Civilization and next semester – Modern Middle East.

The Political Science Department doesn’t offer any classes dealing specifically with the Middle East, but they do offer classes such as International Relations, Conflict Resolution and Comparative Politics where the Middle East is commonly discussed.

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