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725 5th Avenue

New York, NY 10022
November 14, 2016
Alyssa Pitchford
6735 Malory Drive
San Jose, CA 95123
Dear Mr. Stanton,
I have had the pleasure to interview a Center for English as a Second Language (CESL) student
with a very interesting background that most Americans aren’t very aware of. Abdul Aziz
Alnemer is from Saudi Arabia, the National language is Arabic and the National religion is
Islam. However, there are different sectors of the religion of Islam. Abdul is apart of the Shi’a
community and he gave some insight as to what it’s like to be a shi’a and what it means in Saudi
Arabia and his community. Abdul feels great pride to be apart of the shi’a community, he doesn’t
believe in violence, but he feels that the two halves of Islam are too different to be together.
Most Americans don’t even know that there are different sectors to Islam so I would love to
introduce Abdul's experience and sense of community with the rest of America.
Abdul first spoke to me about being upset about not having a mosque to worship in within the
city limits of Tucson. I was immediately confused because I’ve seen a mosque in Tucson. He
then explained that he is a Shi’a Muslim and that mosque is for Sunni Muslims; they can’t
worship within the same building. Why? Well a long time ago after the prophet ​Muhammad
died, there was much speculation about who would be the new leader of the Muslim faith. The
Shi’a believed one man, Ali, should have been the ruler while the Sunni believe a few other
(Ali, Hasan, and Hussein) should have been the ruler. The religion split because of politics, but it
didn’t split evenly. The Sunni gained more popularity around the world so they account for
around 80-85% of the Muslim population while Shi’a accounts for 10-15% of the Muslim
population. So Abdul is ultimately a minority within his entire religion and even his country,
Saudi Arabia, is ran by a Sunni monarchy. This is proven by the fact that his religious
community is not given a place of worship while his Sunni muslim counterparts are given a
grand mosque. Most Americans don’t get to hear about these different communities or let alone
be knowledgeable on the topic.
This topic really spoke to me out of all the subjects me and Abdul discussed because not many
people outside of the Islamic religion know about the divide. It was amazing to be able to
interview someone who is apart of the minority Islamic community like Abdul. He told me a
little about the tensions between Shi’a muslims and Sunni muslims and how he mostly just
brushes it off. However much of the Middle East does not brush the tension off, they embrace it.
The Syrian Civil war started because the ruling family of Syria, the Assad, were Shi’a and the
population there was 74% Sunni, so they wanted to overthrow the Assad. Most Americans have
no idea what started the Syrian Civil war, they only know that it’s bad and it involves Islam.
Abdul represents proudly a whole minority community that has been involved in lots of

bloodshed over their beliefs. He feels no animosity towards the Sunni but feels that the two sides
are just too different. I think that Abdul's community and religious history is so rich and
interesting that everyone should know a little about it. Thank you so much for taking the time to
read this letter, I really think if people knew more about people like Abdul the world would be a
better more educated place.

Alyssa Pitchford

(A picture of Abdul Aziz Alnemer)

1. Harney, John. "How Do Sunni and Shia Islam Differ?" ​The New York Times. The
New York Times, 03 Jan. 2016. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.
2. News, BBC. "Sunnis and Shia: Islam's Ancient Schism." ​BBC News. N.p., n.d.
Web. 16 Nov. 2016. <>.