When friends Taqee Khaled and Hasan Hyder kick back at Coffman Union between University of Minnesota classes, they have plenty to talk about: classes, mutual friends, Muslim Student Association activities, life.

Khaled, 25, a graduate student in epidemiology, and Hyder, 21, a senior majoring in economics, also frequently pray together.

But there’s one thing they have never felt the need to talk about — who’s Sunni and who’s Shiite.

For the record, Khaled, who grew up in Minneapolis, is of Bangladesh Sunni heritage, and Hyder, who was born in India and moved to the United States several years ago, is Shiite.

Daily, the two are dismayed at the news from the Middle East, where Sunni-vs.-Shiite tensions have exploded into bloodbaths in Iraq and Lebanon, spawned incendiary talk in some Arab-language publications and turned Baghdad into a no-man’s-land of dangerous, divided neighborhoods. This week has been especially bloody, with 340 Iraqis dying, most of them Shiite pilgrims on their way to a shrine in Karbala, south of Baghdad.

Such strife, Khaled and Hyder say, is the result not of ancient theological differences but rather of political and economic instability — and of war.


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