As I visited the Imam Reza shrine in the summer of 2015, a complex with the mausoleum of the eighth Shiite Imam, I joined a gathering of young people sitting around a middle-aged cleric. His discussion was mostly about the unity among Shiite and Sunni Muslims and how these confessions are similar to each other. After finishing his talk, one of the young participants raised his hand and asked with a doubtful voice: “Excuse me, if Sunni and Shiite are so similar and, as you said, the same – then what is advantage of being a Shiite follower?” The cleric smiled and answered: “Well, yes we are all brothers. But! At the end after we are dead, in the Last Judgment, when our life is reviewed and judged, in that moment when we are condemned due to our sins and looked down upon, he (the cleric showed his finger to the shrine of the Imam) will come and intervene and bring us to paradise.” The answer was quite satisfactory for the young man and the others, as they smiled and shook their heads. Yet, while no one knows whether the Shiite Muslims have that “Joker Card” to enter paradise, we definitely know that they do have one to enter higher political positions, such as the presidency in the Islamic Republic, as well as a more effective voice in the development of the country’s policies.
After all, four decades after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the still hidden question is: how – and what – is the relationship between Islamic Republic and Iranian Sunni community? How are their interactions and socio-political behaviour towards each other? Now, answering these kinds of questions is challenging, due firstly to the lack of proper resources and secondly because of the link of this topic with security issues. Whenever, during his fieldwork, the author asked people from the Sunni community questions which could be linked to socio-political issues, in many of the cases the answer was: “That is a security question and I cannot answer.” Nevertheless, by looking at published speeches and statements we are going to see in this book how politicians from the Islamic Republic as well as well-known people from the Iranian Sunni community publicly talk and think about each other. Furthermore, the material provided will show how both sides jointly communicate, while the analysis and interpretation of the data will exhibit moments of both contention as well as cooperation.
Of course, in the end this book will not answer all of the open questions, but open doors for new questions and discussions. The point is, discussing the situation of the Iranian Sunni community openly will shed light on a topic which is hidden in a corner, covered by securitization and observed (to some extent sincerely) by both the Islamic Republic as well as the Sunni community as an instrument in a constant geopolitical rivalry.