Thursday, October 19, 2006

"Holy shit! What's a Shiite?"

New York Times has published an article about the fact that many of our counterterrorism officials can't tell the difference between Sunni and Shia. (Here it is, but I think it requires registration.)

The journalist, Jeff Stein, has been visiting the officials with the question "Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?” He did not really expect a theological analysis, he asked people things like whether Al-Qaeda or Hezbollah are Sunni or Shia. Some people answered his questions, but a lot didn't. He, of course, mentioned some (?) of the ones who failed by name in the article, but none of the ones who answered properly.

OK, the state of general education (hmm, can't come up with a proper English word for yleissivistys) in the US is unfortunately no news. Neither is the state of general education among our elected and unelected officials. What is news, however, is that NYT is finally saying that the differences between the Shia and the Sunni are more relevant to the subject of terrorism, than, say, the differences between the Militant Mennonites and the Aggressive Amish.

But we really should have some obligatory tests on the subject for our anti-terrorism officials.

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