Muslims have always had a problematic relationship with the moon. Precisely pinpointing when and where the crescent moon can be found is not an exact science. So we who base our calendar on the phases of the moon never know precisely when the fasting month of Ramadan will arrive or when its end will be celebrated with the festival of Eid. In October it was celebrated on three different days throughout the Muslim world.
But today our difﬁculty with the moon has taken on a whole new dimension. Muslims and non-Muslim scholars and politicians are confronted by a terrestrial incarnation of the lunar phase: the Shi’a crescent.
With the exception of a few scholars, the non-Muslim world knew almost nothing about the Shi’a until the 1979 Iranian revolution. No one talked about them in ethnic, religious or political terms, much less imagined a Shi’a crescent cutting a swath across the Islamic world.