There was a time when I didn't know much about the other sect of Islam. I and my relatives and friends came across Shias very rarely, all we knew about them was that they mourned a  lot during the ten days of Moharram. Nor were we interested in knowing why they did so. 

As the years went by, I gradually learnt that they pray differently (three times a day instead of five), that they consider a pilgrimage to Karbala very essential, and even though some of them have not performed Haj, they still go to Iraq. 

When I was in Saudi Arabia for Haj fifteen years back, two young men were wondering why it should take at least twenty days to perform Haj, and I suggested (jokingly) that they should become Shias (for whom only five days are required). I was almost lynched by one of the fat men. It was then that I realized how things have changed. The fat one, normally a cheerful, normal businessman, lost his cool and wanted to throttle me for suggesting that he convert to the Shia faith.

I know an educated man who doesn't eat or drink anything offered by a Shia. Then there was my boss in the oil industry (fifty years back) who hated Shias, even though he was very liberal and highly educated. I never got around to asking him why he felt that way about them.

There was a Shia officer who (when he discovered I'm a Sunni) went out of his way to deliberately get my recently-bought salt factory shut down. It took more than a month to get the factory re-opened, after I appealed against his decision and won. At that time I felt very bad, but later on I wanted to go and thank him, as it forced me to learn a lot about the salt trade. I also gained a lot of knowledge about the law and the Excise Department, which was useful to me in my later years. 

I have nothing against Shias. But the hatred between members of the two sects is disturbing. I believe poverty is the main cause. If most people had jobs and were busy from eight in the morning to six in the evening, they would be too tired to nurse imaginary grievances against others. Let's hope better sense prevails and the bitterness ends soon.