The Three Types of Sectarianism by the Washington Institute


A recent article published by the Washington Institute interestingly separates sectarianism into three types.

1) Institutionalized Sectarianism
2) Incidental Sectarianism
3) Exploitative Sectarianism

Institutionalized Sectarianism
“Some groups and states have integrated sectarian themes into the very fabric of their political, cultural, and educational systems. Sectarianism, in other words, has been institutionalized. ”
Institutionalized Sectarianism is by far the most dangerous and most difficult form of sectarianism to counter. Examples of this include the likes of Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabism and Iran’s ‘Governance of the Jurists’, meaning a regime overseen by scholars. The article goes on to say that this is something ISIS is also seeking to achieve.

Incidental Sectarianism
“…as its name implies, does not involve a deliberate effort to implement a sectarian agenda. Sectarianism does not play a central role in a state or group’s objectives, even if there are overtones of it.”

Incidental Sectarianism is a form of sectarianism that is evident in conflicts even if that was not the reason for the conflict. The Syrian civil war is an example of this whereby the struggle is not to eradicate the Alawite, but rather the Alawi regime from leadership – but at the same time the opposition uses sectarianism to bolster their ranks.
Exploitative Sectarianism
“Finally, there is exploitative sectarianism, a category that characterizes the tactics and nature of many of the most violent actors in the region.”
The article suggests that most of the larger Jihadi organisations today exploit sectarianism to recruit and to achieve political goals however one could argue that the West not only exploit sectarianism but help in institutionalizing it for their own gains in the Middle East.

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