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Posts Tagged Disrupting Ummah Unity

Opinion Piece Restoration of Writ in Aleppo – How Far is Peace for Syria? by Hamza Iftikhar, Research Associate, MUSLIM Institute

Opinion Piece 

Restoration of Writ in Aleppo – How Far is Peace for Syria? 

by Hamza Iftikhar Research Associate, MUSLIM Institute

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After weeks of deadly battles between the opposition groups and the pro-government forces, the Syrian army took control over all of Aleppo as the last group of evacuees left eastern Aleppo on Thursday. Sadly, though, this does not mean that the Syrian conflict is nearing to an end. The reality couldn’t be far from it. Nor will this ‘victory’ bring back the scores of innocent civilians killed or take away the suffering of those who have endured unimaginable hardships over the past six years in the form starvationbombings and lack of medical attention. Not to mention the tens of millions who had to leave their homes in order to save their lives and those who are living in besieged areas. Just two days ago, around 35,000 more people had to leave their homes in order to evacuate to safety while about 70,000 have fled on foot to government-controlled areas since mid-November. In the last month alone, around 460 civilians have been killed in Aleppo, whereas the United Nations Human Rights Office said that it had reliable evidence that up to 82 civilians were shot on the spot by pro-government forces. We have reached such a depressing stage in the Syrian conflict that even shocking reports like these are not “unexpected” anymore. It is as if the world has given up on Syria, or better put, given up on humanity. 

According to an estimate by the UN special envoy for Syria Mr. Staffan de Mistura, 400,000 people have been killed in Syria ever since the conflict began in 2011. This then begs the question: how many more need to die before there’s a clear “winner” in Syria? How many more need to die before we as humans feel the responsibility to do something? In response to the world’s outrage regarding the siege of eastern Aleppo, the UN Security Council passed a resolution allowing 20 observers to monitor the evacuations. Now that the people have finally evacuated the city after long and torturous weeks in sub-zero temperatures, does that mean the job is done? Following the developments in Syria for the past almost six years, it wouldn’t be wrong to predict that the conflict can potentially follow to the Idlib province, east of Aleppo, where a large number of civilians have evacuated to. According to the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Idlib already hosts about 230,000 displaced people in almost 250 camps. Thus, the necessity to find a solution to the crisis is now required more than ever. 

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There are many actors involved in the Syrian conflict, both domestic and international, non-state and state ones. When we look at the appalling and dreadful facts on the ground in Syria, it’s easy to play the blame game and point fingers at one or the other. We all have access to news and media covering this ferocious war, so instead of quoting here the exact figures and statistics regarding which group has killed more civilians, the point is that all have – and this is not acceptable. Blaming one group or the other for acting more ‘unjustly’ is not going to bring back all the 400,000, maybe even more, dead. It is not going to bring back the millions of displaced people to their homes safely. It is not going to lessen the suffering of the innocent civilians on the ground who have to live every day like it might be the last one. Whether it be the pro-Assad forces including the Syrian army and pro-government militias, supported by Iran and Russia, or the opposition forces including the Free Syrian Army, Jabhat Fatah Al-Sham or other rebel groups backed by the United States, Turkey, and the Arab Gulf States, everyone is to be blamed and they all are paying a price one way or the other. Hence, there are no “winners” in this conflict. We need to understand this and make our peace with it if we are to find a solution that will end the continued and prolonged bloodshed in Syria. 

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Although he may have won the battle for Aleppo and gained momentum in the war, but Bashar Al Assad is still far from controlling the majority of Syria. He still needs to deal with the opposition groups in the North East, South East, Kurdish YPG in the North, and last but not the least, the self-proclaimed Islamic State. The stagnant economy, ruined infrastructure and aggravated sectarian divisions in Syria mean that even if he ‘wins’ the official war, Assad will have a long way to go before peace can prevail. While Russia certainly had an impact on the Syrian conflict, it did so with consequences. Apart from the huge cost of this venture and Russian fatalities in Syria, the attack on the Russian Metrojet Flight 9268 last year in October and the recent killing of Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov in Istanbul are some of the heavy prices that Moscow had to pay due to its involvement in the Syrian conflict. 

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Similarly, the United States, Turkey and the Gulf States, particularly Saudi Arabia, all have had to endure massive financial costs and most importantly had to pay the price in the form of heinous terrorist attacks on their soil as a result of their involvement in the Syrian conflict. But instead of working out a whole balance sheet in order to determine which group has lost more lives, it suffices to say that both sides have suffered. Suffering that could have been avoided. More notably, the conflict between the two sides has ruined the country itself, exacerbated the existing regional turmoil, displaced millions of people and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians who didn’t even chose to be in this inferno. 

The blame for this prolonged conflict that continues to get worse day by day, therefore, rests on everyone involved. The international community in the form of international and regional organizations such as the UN, the Arab League or Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have all failed to work out a solution to a conflict that started off as just anti-government protests. Not just in Syria, but it has also failed to attend to the dire situation in Iraq, Libya as well as Yemen. Living in the 21st century with the presence of these remarkable institutions, it is inconceivable that we still are not able to stop the blood being spilled over and over again. 

The situation in Syria, as well as in Iraq, Libya and Yemen, highlights the severe leadership crisis and strong divisions amongst Muslim countries themselves. All Muslim actors, regardless of their ideologies and interests, need to remind themselves of their Islamic roots when making decisions that could have repercussions far beyond their own borders. This is not something new or anything that has never been witnessed in history, it’s essentially cost/benefit analysis. Sadly in this case, when talking about the cost we ought to reduce the value of human life, even if it may be in hundreds of thousands. Helping those in need is one of the core principles of Islam, yet there’s barely any support and refuge given to those in need in Syria by those who are in the surrounding area. If Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and even Europe is able to accommodate the refugees and provide them with basic food and shelter, then why can’t the rest of us? 

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Even if geographical complications do not allow some countries to host refugees, the least they can do is to help end the bloodshed through diplomacy and mediation via the institutions that were formed for this exact purpose. The situation that unfolded in Aleppo was not something new or out of the blue. It was the continuity of endless turmoil in the Arab World. The regional actors need to realize how detrimental can the spill-over effect be of these conflicts for the whole Muslim world and its unity, at least whatever’s left of it. There’s a great danger of intensification of prevalent polarization along sectarian lines due to conflicting interests in the Syrian situation, as well as other regional conflicts. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that the key players in the region work out a solution in Syria through dialogue with Syrians and other actors via institutions like the UN, Arab League and the OIC in order to stop the bloodshed immediately, attend to the safety and well-being of those displaced, and form a consensus amongst the opposing parties so peace can prosper in the short and long term. A similar approach needs to be adopted when dealing with other crisis such as those in Iraq, Libya, and Yemen. It is about time that humanity should be given priority over economic, geopolitical and ideological interests. For if we ourselves are going to turn against each other and ignore the cries of those in need, then how can we expect the rest of the world to act any different?

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‘Islamic’ Military Coalition – Really?

 
 “Verily, God does not change men’s condition unless they change their inner selves.” Quran 13:11
 
 
 

‘Islamic’ Military Coalition – Really?

 

By

 Syeda Qudsia Mashhadi

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Islamic’ Military Coalition – Really?

By

 Syeda Qudsia Mashhadi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The recent announcement of an ‘Islamic’ Military Coalition by the Defense Minister of Saudi Arabia has raised some questions. The first thing that hits home is the fact that no Shia Muslim country is a part of this Islamic Coalition. I am all for a strong military coalition that has representation from all Muslim countries. This coalition on the other hand, does not include ‘all’; on the contrary, it sidelines some countries on the basis of sectarian differences. One wonders why the Ummah keeps on playing in the hands of Zionists and dividing itself on the basis of sects. Why this ‘Islamic’ military coalition comprises of only Sunni Muslim countries? Are we so blind that we cannot see that this military coalition of ‘Islamic’ states will further the divide between Sunnis and Shias?

Sputnik International also reported on this sectarian selection of Muslim countries:

According to al-Gharaoui, a member of the Iraqi Parliament’s Security Committee, the new initiative may lead to a further division in the Muslim society and deepen the split between various courses of Islam. The coalition, which includes Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey, among other nations, was created “to counteract terrorism, which became a threat to the interests of the Islamic nation,” according to an official statement of Riyadh authorities.

According to the Defense Minister of Saudi Arabia, Muhammad bin Salman Al Saud, the coalition will fight not only against Daesh, but also against other terrorist groups. It is unclear what exactly he means by ‘other terrorist groups’. The Saudis did mention one militant group though: Hezbollah. This is alarming as Hezbollah has been fighting for Palestinians and offering resistance to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. They are not viewed as a ‘terrorist’ group like the Daesh, rather looked upon with respect amongst the oppressed Muslims. It would be better for Saudis to first ask Iraqi and Palestinian Muslims what they think about Hezbollah before labeling them as terrorists!

If this military coalition is expected to serve any purpose, it must include all Shia Muslim countries as well. The Muslim world is incomplete without Iran, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Lebanon. It is ironical that the countries most infested with ISIS/Daesh, like Iraq and Syria, are not included in this military coalition! Who is Saudi Arabia fooling?

As a Sunni Muslim, it is painful for me to see the way we were pushing Shia Muslims away from us. They are our brothers and we should bridge the gaps instead of highlighting the minor differences we have them. Have we forgotten the lesson of peace and unity that our Prophet PBUH preached all his life?

I don’t have any hope of any intelligent or reasonable response from Pakistan’s political leadership; the ones who are incapable of handling their own country properly cannot be expected to lead the whole Ummah at times of crises. I do, however, expect Pakistan’s military leadership to be watchful while being part of any coalition that aims to target other Muslim countries or sects. These are truly the most testing times for the Ummah and we see the situation worsening gradually. The only hope of salvation is by returning to our Deen and the message of Quran, but we deliberately choose to ignore it.

What to say about other Muslim countries when the so-called ‘custodian’ of ‘Harmain Shareefain is the biggest supporter and abettor of terrorism in the world! It is sickening and revolting to see that they would rather support the Zionist and Apartheid state of Israel than the Muslim Shia Iran! They would rather support the cut-throats of Daesh Khawarij then support the Shia Muslim, Bashar al Assad, who is still, by the way, the legitimate ruler of Syria, however despotic or dictatorial he may be, is a separate debate altogether.

No country has the right to interfere in the internal matters of any other sovereign state. Whether it is the USA, the so-called super power of the world or KSA, the so-called leader of Ummah, none of them has the right to run every country the way they want! They do not have the right to bring a regime of their choice in other countries. Period. If we have any sense of dignity and integrity as human beings, we, the countries silently watching, should call their bluff.

Time of empty rhetoric is long gone. We do not need another ‘Organization of Islamic Cooperation’ which failed miserably to do what was expected of it. Those countries, who have been openly giving aid to terrorists just so they could topple the leadership of the rival countries, have not done any service to Islam or the world. Such countries need to show with their actions that they will no longer support terrorists but rather support those neighbouring Muslim countries that they have been bombing!

Are we as human beings content to see new videos of gruesome executions released repeatedly by the monsters of ISIS? Are we content to see daily the children in schools and hospitals being bombed in Syria, Yemen and Palestine? Because if all of this is acceptable to us, then we do not have the right to inhabit this planet anymore, and it’s only poetic justice that we all kill ourselves in senseless wars over pointless issues.

 

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