Trying to get a handle on the backgrounds of twenty-five people is difficult and overwhelming. I am starting with some background on the various ethnic and religious groups with which the council members identify. They were selected partly with these allegiances in mind, so it is a logical starting point.
The composition breaks down like this:
- Sunni: 5
- Turkmen: 1
- Shi'a: 13
- Sunni Kurd: 4
- Assyrian Christian: 1
- None: 1
The Sunni members:
- Samir Shakir Mahmoud
- Naseer al-Chaderchi
- Adnan Pachachi
- Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer
- Mohsen Abdel Hamid
So, what is Sunni?
This definition comes from the Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, available online at:
Here are the interesting parts:
- the largest division of Islam. Sunni Islam is the heir to the early central Islamic state, in its ackowledgement of the legitimacy of the order of succession of the first four caliphs, in contrast to the Shiite rejection of the first three as usurpers.
- It can also be seen as the aggregate of the adherents to the four extant schools of religious law, the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafii, and Hanbali schools. With no centralized clerical institution, Sunni Islam should be understood as an umbrella identity, grouping close to 90% of the approximately one billion Muslims, stretching geographically from the Indonesian islands to the African steppes, through the Indian subcontinent, central Asia, and the Arab world, and ideologically from ecstatic Sufism to the puritanic literalism of the Wahhabis and Salafias, through scholasticism and secularism. The scholastic formulation, the most constant expression of Sunni Islam throughout its history and geographic span, proposes the relation of the human being with the Divine as essentially individual, with no intermediaries. In actual practice, however, religious scholars, together with mystic /shaykhs,/ pious persons, and popular saints (/awliya/), are often recognized as enjoying a religious authority of varying degrees. The Sunni theoretical characterization of the Prophet Muhammad as a mere executor of Divine will has not precluded the intensive devotional rituals directed to his person that flourish in a diversity of forms across the Sunni world. The prime center of scholastic learning in Sunni Islam is the mosque-university of al-Azhar in Cairo.
The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Copyright © 2002 Columbia University Press