In This Review

The Arab Shi`a: The Forgotten Muslims
The Arab Shi`a: The Forgotten Muslims
By Graham e. Fuller and Rend Rahim Francke
St. Martin's, 2000, 290 pp

An estimated 14 million "Twelver" Shiite Muslims live in Arab Asia, accounting for some 16 percent of the total population -- a decided minority in the overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim portion of the Arab world. (Twelver Shiites are by far the largest group within the Shiite world, in contrast to the much smaller Zaydi and Alawi Shiite groups in Yemen and Syria, respectively.) They constitute a majority in Iraq and Bahrain and are the single largest religious community in Lebanon. This book reveals striking diversity in sociopolitical conditions, devoting separate chapters to the Shiites in Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon. The authors illustrate the plight of the Shiites in Iraq and Bahrain, their much better treatment in Kuwait, and their dramatic political success in Lebanon. The transnational influence of Shiite religious leaders and the ambivalent, limited influence of Iran on Arab Shiites are also underscored. As the authors point out, their Arab identity outweighs their religious affiliation in many political contexts. A good, reliable, and nuanced account, The Arab Shi`a should ensure that this group will be neither forgotten nor stereotyped.