It has been taken for granted that for countless centuries, the Shia were the oppressed and the Sunni were the oppressors, however, this doesn't necessarily indicate that the Shia are anymore peaceful or tolerant than the Sunnis in any way, they simply lost the power struggle, and facing the fact of being sore losers, they settled for a vindictive agenda that was put on hold until future Terminator-Mahdi activates World Shutdown Sequence, while the Sunnis happily chopped off their heads and have rather enjoyed their sadistic tenure in power (as opposed to the Shi'i masochistic self-sacrifice) until they were put in the Losing Shi'i position of the food chain at large by the West when Napoleon washed up Egypt's shore. In fact, a world where Shia make up 90% of the Muslim world would find the Umayyad-following, Nasibi Holy-Imam-Killing sect of Sunnism in a very difficult environment that might force them to adopt many of the evasive measurements now unique to Shi'ism.
But enough What-Ifs, being only 10-15%, the Shia found no other option but to hit the mattresses and be implicit about their own takfirist impulses. This finds itself true in many manifestations, especially when comparing the accomodative role of the Shia minority in Syria and the suppressive role of the Sunni minority in Iraq, (coming up in a future post).
Because of all of this, Sheikh Yassir al-Habib is an interesting figure, he is a young cleric who has quickly gained notoriety, attained quickly by bombast and controversy, unlike virtually all Shi'is, he publicly blasphemes the companions harshly and explicitly, for which he was imprisoned in Kuwait, only to manage to seek asylum and resettle in the United Kingdom, the man is a recurring figure in many discussion forums and video sites, you might him remember as the guy who actively called for the burning and destruction of Sunni mosques following the Askariya 2006 events (although that video was edited for effect), in many ways, the extremism of his views are equivalent of the Wahhabi 'Takfiri' sheikhs who are murderously opposed to the Rafidha Shia, a class that usually summons Ibn Taymiyya alongside modern stalwarts such as Ibn Baz, Ibn Jibreen, and Salih al-Fawzan. But the rarity of extremist figures on the Shi'i side is only a matter of the careful prudent hate of the traditional Shi'i system, produced by centuries of a their perception of being oppressed. In defiance, Yassir courageously describes the Sunnis as 'unbelievers', he also complains that the Askari shrine is under the control of the 'Nawasib' (lit. Ali-haters, but here he means the Iraqi Sunni endowment) and the priority of its reclamation is more important than reclaiming Jerusalem, in fact, his default word for 'Sunnism' in this video is a dismissive 'Bakri sect'. Listening to his lectures, the whole Shi'i thing seems to be concetrated at getting sweet revenge from Umar.
So we come to ask the big question again, often asked by the larger West vis-a-vis the smaller Islam in the food chain, is this Yassir al-Haibi guy an extremist nonsensical offshoot who wants to make it big quick or are there some concrete facts that supplied this hatred and he's just being honest about it? Well, for most of the time, Sunni-Shia relations were lukewarm at best, and they only come into unison when faced by a common enemy, such as Abu Naji** in 1920s Iraq (although the intents of the various factions in that revolution comes into heavy dispute), or the general lack of interest in religion in the 60s, heydays of Pan-Arab Nasserism, which was a time when the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party would hold demonstrations in tandem with al-Hakim family against Qasim's Communists, and most spectacularly a fatwa validating the Shi'i sect by the highest Sunni authority, Egyptian al-Azhar (which, interestingly, was built by Fatimid Shia), although the Azhar hurridely distanced itself from the fatwa as time progressed and the Iranian revolution burst upon the panicked Gulf and the shit-ruined America, who both hurried to Saddam. Other than these circumstantial periods, the constant assurance that 'everything is all right' and 'we are only different by 20% or less' is made more worrying with the number of the dead piling up and the increase in extremist hysteria from both sides of the camp, all signs of a very strained hostility that is constantly emerging after being buried not-so-subtly in history books. with the Sunnis naturally being the more outspoken considering their size , their traditional dominance and their perceived loss of power. That's the only difference, as evidenced by the concentrated dose of honest hate of al-Habib as lashed out in this reactionary fashion. In this environment, which lacks any understanding of meaningful coexistence, Prophet Bush's shock-and-awe democracy won't work, so here's hoping for another miracle, (although not one as my otherwise-nice uncle suggests:
** Abu Naji = An Iraqi slang for British, what, you think your 'Haji' is original?