We are all watching what Iran is doing. It is even attacking the corridor which was built with great difficulty to allow Aleppo's people, including women and children, to reach the safe zone near our border. Obviously, it is aiming to prevent any Aleppo Sunnis from surviving. We are surprised and expect a grain of humanity or at least the requirements of religious fellowship and Muslims' mercy such as avoiding firing a gun on women, children and elderly people. But, we expect in vain. Then, we are all preoccupied with a question, “How would a sect, which is considered to be Islamic, turn into the legitimizer of brutality which requires the rejection of any of Islam's sacred values?” What is the justification of the Iranian Shiites while adopting a destructionist tendency and murderous fanaticism toward the members of Islam just because they are from a different sect?
There are many sects in Islam in terms of faith, politics, practices and law. But if we are to make a basic distinction like Christianity, which has three major sects (Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Protestantism), Islamic beliefs can be divided into two sects: Sunnism and Shiism.
Sociologist Max Weber gave the most interesting and famous answer ever to the question of whether sects are determined by the culture of societies or whether the cultures of societies are influenced by sects, in his “The Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Capitalism.” Accordingly, Protestantism has a principle embodied in the teaching of Pastor John Calvin: People must constantly work and avoid all kinds of earthly luxury in order to be purified in God's presence and ultimately gain his content. This is called asceticism – a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from worldly pleasures and observation of spiritual goals. I mean, a bourgeois businessman might think that he can pursue his economic interests and that he has to do so as he is blessed by God, as long as he can stand within his boundaries of faith, remain morally pure, and avoid all kinds of luxury while spending his earnings. Weber says this leads to the accumulation of capital – which eventually leads to the emergence of capitalism. At first, Weber suggests that the Protestant morality determines economic development, but then suggests that the developing capitalism increasingly directs Protestantism. That is, while religion initially identifies the individual and society, it falls into a determined position in the course of time. Things begin getting out of control here. I think we can all see the tragic end by looking at the point where capitalism has reached today.
On the other hand, the social differentiation of the Buddhist belief, which has become the "new-age" religion of the world in the post-modern period with its “cute” appearance, presents an interesting image. For instance, Indian Buddhism is different from the one in Tibet, Thailand, Bangladesh or China. While Buddhism is combined with the teachings of Confucius and Tao in China, it is characterized by the concepts of pride, honor and impenetrable rule as its cornerstones in Japan, and gives life to the Samurai sword tradition. The same Buddhism, that we all code as an oriental and mysterious belief, and that we practice in favor of humanity, humanism, and human values, caused both ethnic and religious (Muslim Rohingyas and Buddhist Rakhines) discrimination in Myanmar and became the legitimizer of the most brutal and inhuman torture methods ever, such as burning others alive.
Briefly, while religious differentiations in Europe are shaped by politics, economics and reforms, beliefs in the Far East become more violent in some places and become the teachings of goodness and beauty, meaning dervish spirit, in others. Here, the point Islam has reached is the Shiite Iran.
I do not aim to reach the oft-told reduction that Christianity achieved to ensure peace, but Islam could not. This is not true, and it is also wrong to analyze the history of Islamic countries from the West's story of exploitation, and its history of colonialism and post-colonialism. It is no secret that they played a trick on Islamic countries, exploited their resources, and undermined them by intentionally pitting them against each other. On the other hand, let us not disregard the Ottomans, Seljuks, Andalusians, and not count the scholars of Islam, who have guided the European history, one by one.
But we do not witness Sunni countries attacking each other and brutally murdering Muslims throughout history, and Iran is never ever seen waging a war against a country other than Muslims. It can even be said that the sectarian and brutal way of Iran's expansion has not left a Muslim country unharmed in the Middle East.
My intention is not to negate the Iranian belief and to further enlarge the negative wave against Iran. However, let us know that the answer to the question of whether sects are determined by the culture of societies, or the cultures of societies are influenced by sects, which has been asked since sects emerged, has a clear answer in the Iran example. Let us not blame Islam even for this.