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Hussain Abdul-Hussain

No peace on earth with religions of hate

Every sect can find injustice against its coreligionists somewhere on Earth, at some point in history

A Lebanese woman sticks a No War sticker on the "Martyrs" landmark statue in central Beirut during a protest against sectarian violence on May 21, 2012 (AFP Photo/Anwar Amro)

When I wrote that the Shiites are committing a grave mistake by oppressing the Sunnis in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, at least since 2003, almost every Shiite I know countered by accusing me of bias: “How about the Shiites of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan? Why don’t you write about them?”

 

To the sectarian mind, it is impossible to argue against one injustice without arguing against every injustice. Since every sect can find injustice against its coreligionists somewhere on earth, sometime in history, sects have grown accustomed to using victimhood as a license to kill and tyrannize rivals.

 

This twisted logic is driving hatred between the Sunnis, the Shiites and other Middle Eastern sects. Try to argue with a Christian about the moral obligation of siding with the victims of Bashar Assad’s chemical, chlorine and barrel bombs and she will immediately fire back by saying: “What about the nuns of Maaloula?”

 

The Shiites, for example, have kept 14 centuries of anti-Sunni hatred alive by annually marking the death of their third imam, Hussein. I have tried to reason with Shiite believers about the point of keeping such a bloody memory alive. Other than agitating anti-Sunni sentiments, the story of Hussein’s death in Karbala serves little or no purpose. Are the Shiites looking for compensation? Are today’s Sunnis responsible for the errors of the Umayyads 1,334 years ago? And is there anything the Sunnis can do for the Shiites to let it go?

 

Not to be outbid by the Shiite hate rhetoric, the Sunnis have similar hate-spewing tales. The Sunnis imagine the Shiites as aliens planted by a world conspiracy to undermine the otherwise harmonious Islamic Ummah. Some Sunnis argue that a fictional Jewish Yemenite, Abdullah bin Saba’, penetrated the Muslims to divide them by creating the Shia.

 

To the Sunni mind, the Safavids, Magi, Persian Iran are in bed with Israel and the West to undermine Islam. The Shiites level similar accusations against an imagined Sunni-Jewish alliance. Both Sunnis and Shiites spew hate against the Jews, who in turn have no love lost for either.

 

Middle Eastern sects hate each other deeply despite attempts to hide it. A sectarian person will typically start by swearing that she hates divisions and that she has friends from other sects and does not discriminate. But when hanging out with their own, the Christians will spare no words of disgust against Muslims, typically depicting them as “dirty.” Sunnis think of Shiites as low lives, while the Shiites think of both as bullies that need to be cut down to size.

 

Sectarian bigots also hide behind nationalism. In Lebanon, they usually express pride in their country, the army and the flag, only unwittingly. Lebanon’s Shiites pledge allegiance to Lebanon, but also think it is their duty to defend the Shiite shrines of Zaynab and Ruqiyyah in Damascus and that of Ammar Bin Yasser in Raqqa.

 

Lebanon’s Christians, the avowed sovereignty defenders, see no contradiction when the Maronite patriarch makes trips to Syria and Israel “to connect” with Christians there. They often think of Lebanese Christians and Levantine Christians interchangeably, and lobby in world capitals accordingly.

 

Like the Christians and Shiites who mix nationalism with regional identity, Lebanon’s Sunnis have developed regional allegiances. Iraq’s late tyrant Saddam Hussein has emerged as a hero in Sunni quarters. Syria’s terrorist group Jabhat al-Nusra is winning Sunni hearts. If the Shiites can have their militias, like Hezbollah and Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas, why should the Sunnis not have their own?

 

In Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, those who understand the concepts of state, democracy, sovereignty and citizenship are statistically insignificant. The majority of the Levant is populated by sectarian people who — despite all their talk about tolerance and coexistence — are, in fact, bigots locked in a zero-sum game. They are more interested in seeing their sect beat other sects than in building good governments.

 

Sects falsely think they are fighting existential battles, and that if their sect wins, justice will prevail, unaware that in this vicious cycle of hate and revenge, one sect’s victory is simply the defeat of another. As long as there are defeated sects, there will be injustice that will result in revenge and more blood. This is how the cycle of violence self-propagates.  

 

In anger management groups, participants are encouraged to vent their feelings. Once they air their frustrations, it becomes easier for them to cope. Levantine sects were designed to thrive on fear and hatred and to perpetuate violence. Unless their foundations are altered, it will remain impossible to reconstitute the region with any semblance of tranquility, and there can be no peace on earth, at least in the Middle East.

 

Hussain Abdul-Hussain is the Washington Bureau Chief of Alrai newspaper. He tweets @hahussain

 

In Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, those who understand the concepts of state, democracy, sovereignty and citizenship are statistically insignificant. (AFP Photo/Anwar Amro)

Try to argue with a Christian about the moral obligation of siding with the victims of Bashar Assad’s chemical, chlorine and barrel bombs and she will immediately fire back by saying: ‘What about the nuns of Maaloula?’”

  • Vlad Tepes

    I think a sectarian Olympics would be good. Maybe some javelin throwing, judo, and other events to sort of get them together and have a peaceful competition for medals.

    December 28, 2014

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    Always spot on, Mr. Abdul-Hussain. What a true, yet sad, assessment of our sorry condition, tinged (as others have commented) with the realization that an end to this religious barbarism is nowhere near in sight. Our tunnel is so long that many generations to come will still not see any light at the end.

    December 26, 2014

  • bassimo

    Thank you Hussein,but lets just hope that our people, of all sects read this and understand exactly what its says and what we must all do to change our stupid, paranoid , sheepish behaviour. But sadly i do not see it happening, for everyone that thinks that we must change, there are countless others who would like to maintain the status quo and continue the cycle of sectarian , paranoia and hate.

    December 25, 2014

  • hani.oubari

    well said Hussein..

    December 23, 2014