Friday, August 04, 2006

shia crescent

it's a phrase we've heard a lot about lately. the thing that's been bothering me is that if you map out where the shia live, it doesn't make a crescent on the map. take a look for yourself.

i guess you can kind of imagine a crescent that starts in western china and tajikistan dips south across afghanistan and iran, and then goes up again by the caspian sea and then skips over to lebanon. but the people who started all this shia crescent talk live in the gulf region. the shia areas there go south hugging the gulf coast of the arabian peninsula which seems to undermine the concept of a crescent sweeping north from iran. there's also all those shia areas in india.

maybe they're talking more about shia-ruled areas. in that case the only country that's like that so far is iran and iraq. maybe you can also count syria (which has a secular government but is ruled by alawites, a minority sect that is an offshoot of shia). i guess the idea is that if lebanon becomes a shia-ruled country, then we at least have a continuous line from iran to iraq to syria to lebanon. i still don't think it looks much like a crescent. and what about bahrain (one of the few countries with a shia majority)? how does azerbaijan fit in?

i understand why they would want to use a crescent as the metaphor for the location of a muslim religious group on a map, but i'm simply not seeing it. really what i see is greater persia with a couple of other clusters along the mediterranean and gulf coast and in south and central asia.