Next to my home in Jeddah is a mosque whose imam has a very sweet voice. I was in the process of disembarking from my car and returning home when I heard this imam, leading Tarawih prayers, reciting verses from Surat al Qasas. The imam recited “Truly Pharaoh exalted himself in the land and broke up its people into sections, oppressing a small group among them: their sons he slew, but he kept alive their women: for he was indeed a maker of mischief.” [Surat al Qasas, verse 4].
Upon hearing this Quranic verse, I immediately thought of Bashar Assad and what he is doing in Syria; Assad is oppressing and killing the people of Syria, and even destroying houses of worship. The best example of this is the image of the minaret of the Uthman Bin Affan mosque being shelled in front of the eyes of the world without regard for the sanctity of mosques, or the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. It is therefore clear that we are facing a regime that wants to rule its people, even if this is with fire and iron.
Indeed, Bashar Al Assad is the Pharaoh of Syria, and he is truly one of the worst “maker[s] of mischief” in the world, for he has not just corrupted the lives of the Syrian people, but also the entire region and its stability. The Syrian president has destabilized the region for the past decade through his use of false slogans which do not deceive anybody except those as corrupt as Assad himself. Therefore the question that we must ask everybody today, particularly those in Lebanon and Iran who are standing with the Syrian regime, is: is this the regime that you are allying yourself with? Oh you who rant about Islam, dignity, and resistance, are you truly going to ally yourself with the Assad regime today?
This next question is addressed to the Shiite intellectuals in our region; is this Assad regime truly your ally and agent in our region? When have the Shiites ever come out to deny or reject the Assad regime, in the same manner that a number of Sunnis came out to reject Al Qaeda and its terrorist practices, confronting this terrorist organization over the past decade? The Syrian regime’s officials may be lying to their own people out of blind loyalty [to Assad] and dependence on abhorrent sectarianism in the same manner as the Syrian representative to the UN who claimed that nobody is as concerned about the people of Syria as Bashar Assad himself, but the question that we must ask the Shiite intellectuals here is: what’s your excuse? Why have you remained silent?
The Sunnis rejected Al Qaeda and its terrorist practices; they rejected certain Arab regimes and their oppressive practices, as well as some Arab regime’s reluctance to implement reform. The Sunnis also rejected Hamas no longer pursuing Palestinian interests, as well as the group’s internal division and fragmentation; they rejected the Saddam Hussein regime’s policy of suppression, and there are many other examples in this regard to the point that the Sunnis engage with every event in our region, and with every incident that concerns the Muslim ummah. The question that we are asking here is: where are the Shiite intellectuals in the same regard? Why have they failed to take a position with regards to the malicious practices of Iran, internally and externally? What about the pro-Hezbollah intellectuals in Lebanon? Why do you remain silent? Why have you failed to comment on the corruption and suppression of the Bashar Assad regime in Syria? What about those Shiites who the Assad regime said he would support against Gulf regimes such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Kuwait? Where are you today? Where are your statements insulting others and accusing them of treason now?
Such talk is not sectarian, for unfortunately I am only describing the reality of the situation on the ground. When Slobodan Milosevic was carrying out his crimes in the heart of Europe, the West, and Europe of course, rushed to end his suppression and rescue the [Bosnian] Muslims he was targeting. Today [US Secretary of State] Hilary Clinton is imploring the world – as well as some countries in our region, unfortunately – to take a firm stand against Assad. However there are those, in our region, who remain silent, or are issuing justifications [for Assad]. Worse still, there are those who cloak themselves in sectarianism and who have refused to say a word of truth regarding this crisis, or indeed any other in our region, whilst the Syrian Pharaoh Bashar Al Assad is the worst of all!
The article was published in the London-based Asharq Alawsat on August 13, 2011.