A fair amount of the coverage of the escalating crisis in Lebanon is framing it as a Sunni-Shia conflict. I don't have much to say about what's happening inside of Lebanon - I'd recommend checking out reflections by Brian Katulis, Abu "my pseudonym has outlived its utility" Muqawama, and many others following events there closely - but I did want to point out something important in the wider arena. Compared to the near-hysteria which broke out across the Arab world over Sunni-Shia conflict in late 2006, the Sunni-Shia dimension is very visibly not being driven by mainstream Islamist movements on either side. In the last day,
- the Muslim Brotherhood released a statement calling on all sides to end violence in the streets and to engage in national dialogue to end the crisis.
- Mohammed Fadlallah, the extremely influential Shia marja'a who is widely considered to be the spiritual guide for Hezbollah, warned all sides against falling into the trap of sectarian discourse and called for dialogue among all parties.
- Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of the most influential Sunni Islamists from the Muslim Brotherhood trend, called for an end to the bloodshed and a unification of ranks against common external enemies.
- the popular MB-aligned website Islam Online is reprinting a whole slate of articles and opinions by various figures over the years denouncing Sunni-Shia tensions, including a 2006 statement by Egypt's Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, a 2007 article criticizing the politicization of sectarian differences by the influential Egyptian columnist Salamah Ahmed Salamah, and more.
- Fahmy Howeydi, the influential Egyptian Islamist columnist, said that he understands the distress and concern people feel, but that political struggles must not be allowed to rip apart the Islamic umma.
I could add more if I had the time, but hopefully this will suffice to make the point. There's plenty of anti-Iranian and anti-Hezbollah agitation out there in the Arab media discourse on Lebanon the last few days, especially in the Saudi media and in some of the Lebanese media (and also anti-Shia discourse lurking in the corners) - and Ayman al-Zawahiri noticably focused on Lebanon in his last appearance - but it isn't coming from Muslim Brotherhood circles or from key Shia figures such as Fadlallah. Whatever happens in the ongoing struggle between the two Lebanese coalitions and their external patrons, I don't see this crisis offering much support for meta-narratives about popular Sunni-Shia conflicts bubbling up to the surface. Which doesn't mean that those hoping to promote such conflict won't try to frame it in that way...