On the Sunni-Shii Conflict-1

A comment on Dr. Hathout’s article: Lord, Be My Witness – The Irrationality of Shia-Sunni Violence

At the outset, let me say the following:

  • No moral person would invite the clash between states, societies, communities, etc.
  • Inciting conflict between the Sunni and the Shii is against the interests of both parties.
  • Since the schism is old and is not expected to go away, it is more rational to learn how to live with it rather to imagine that it will vanish.
  • It is expected from the Muslim leadership, including the ulama, to say the truth (as they conceive it), without regard of personal interests but with regard of the public good.
  • Responsible leaders call on their people to persevere and resist; at times they call on them to rebel. And they do that with language that is not centered on hate, whether based on religion, nationality, or ethnicity. Rather their call would be based on the God-given right to people to live in peace free of oppression and aggression.
  • Responsible leaders act with prudence but do not let tactfulness overcome a principled position.
  • Responsible leaders do not seal the possibility of coexistence, even with the enemy.
  • Responsible leaders mobilize all what they can to achieve the legitimate demands of their people.

Now in regard to Dr. Hathout’s piece, I cannot disagree with the major thrust of his points, although I do not share his American centrism that assumes that, we Americans, “have more chances to be objective…”. However, what the piece suffers from is what it omits rather what it affirms. The statement is out of touch with reality.  Moreover, it deals with the issue as if it were a conflict between community centers. The Sunni-Shii conflict now plays on several levels, ideological, political, and otherwise—it is related to asserting national identities and the place in the world, and it involves state alliance at the global level.

I reject inflammatory rhetoric and politicized fatwas, and I am disappointed with the sectarian feelings that are seeping into the consciousnesses of the classical guardians of the idea of the ummah. But one cannot equate sectarianism as a reflex with sectarianism as a worldview. Moreover, acknowledging that sectarianism exists should not permit us from denying the root cause of the rebellion—fighting tyranny. And what the conflict spawned to does change its original nature: ordinary people vs. oppression. Unwanted side effects, even if they were serious, and especially because they were prompted by the predator, cannot warrant bland statements nor does give excuse for self-righteous neutrality.

A major pitfall in analysis is confusing the symptoms with the root causes. Should we look at the Syrian case within a historical postcolonial prism we become more able to understand the present and weigh the choices of the future.  The Syrian revolution is a regional geopolitical earthquake that is destined to affect Bilad al-Sham and beyond. World powers chose to sit on the fence watching the largest segment of the rising Muslim tide (the Sunni) sinks, while others strongly allied themselves with Persian nationalistic Shii imperialism, which despite its religiousness, embraced a criminal regime. Politeness has no room at this juncture. The outcome of the Syrian revolution will be consequential for the future of many Muslim Arab-speaking Muslim countries as well as several Muslim Turkish-speaking countries. As it evolved to, the Syrian revolution is not merely about Syria. Rather, it is about global alignments in which the higher interests of Muslims are at peril.

June 9, 2013

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