Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Tormenting the Souls of Religious Arabs:
‘Arab Spring’ Degrades into Sectarian Counterrevolution
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, September 23, 2013
The blind sectarian rampage, which has been waging a war on worship
mosques, churches and religious shrines have become a modern Arab trade mark
phenomenon, since what the western media called from the start the “Arab
Spring” overwhelmed the Arab streets.
The sectarian rampage is
sweeping away in its rage cultural treasures of archeology and history,
hitting hard at the very foundations of the Arab and Islamic identity of the
region, but more importantly tormenting the souls of the Arab Muslim and
Christian believers who helplessly watch the safe havens of their places of
worship being desecrated, looted, bombed, leveled to the ground and turned
instead into traps of death and monuments of destruction by the “suicide
bombers” who are shouting “God Is Great.”
The only regional
precedent for the destruction of worship places on such a scale was the
destruction of some one thousand mosques since the creation of the State of
Israel in 1948. A research by Israeli professor Ayal Banbanetchi, Rapaport
noted that after 1948, only 160 mosques remained in the area. In the
following years, this number shrank to 40, meaning that 120 were destroyed.
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip documented the names and locations of 47
mosques that were destroyed completely and 107 others partially damaged by
Israeli bombing during the “Operation Cast Lead” in 2008.
because those crimes went unpunished the western public opinion turns a
blind eye to the new Arab phenomenon.
Most likely, the leaders of
the Israeli fundamentalist Jewish “Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful
Movement” are watching closely and wondering whether the current destruction
of mosques by the Muslims themselves would be enough justification to carry
out the movement’s public threats to build the “third temple” on the debris
of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, in Jerusalem.
noteworthy that this destructive phenomenon was an integral part of the
“Arab Spring,” which so far has ousted two presidents in Egypt and three
others in Tunisia, Yemen and Libya, but successfully contained in the
Moroccan and Jordanian monarchies.
However containment has been so
far unsuccessful in the Kingdom of Bahrain, where the ongoing
anti-government mass protests still rage uncontainable to the extent that
the tiny island kingdom was forced to invite a Saudi Arabian contingent of
the GCC’s “Peninsula Shield Force” to move in for help. Nonetheless,
opposition sources and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights reported
“documented” attacks by “the ruling regime” on 37 Shiite mosques, destroying
27 of them, some one thousand years old.
Islamist Copy of Christian
The “Arab Spring” was optimistically named after a
season in nature during which life is reborn and was supposed to promise a
renewal of the stagnant political, social and economic life in the Arab
world, but unfortunately it turned instead into a sectarian season of
killing, death and destruction by counterrevolution forces nurtured
financially, logistically, militarily and politically by the most
conservative among the Arab ruling regimes in the Arabian Peninsula and
their U.S. – led western sponsors and backers.
cleansing in Iraq and Syria committed by the exclusionist sectarian zealots
has become an Islamist modern copy of the European Christian inquisition in
the Middle Ages, with the difference that the old European one was more
systematic and organized by the Vatican institution and its allied states
while it is perpetrated by uncontrolled sporadic and shadowy gangs of terror
in the modern Arab case.
The fact that this horrible phenomenon
came into life only with the U.S. – led invasion then occupation of Iraq in
2003 and exacerbated with the on - record U.S. campaign for a “regime
change” in Syria could only be interpreted as an outcome of a premeditated
policy to divide and rule in the Arab world.
On last August 24, the
Maronite patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai’e told the Vatican Radio: “There
is a plan to destroy the Arab world for political and economic interests and
boost inter-confessional conflict between Sunnis and Shiites,” adding, “We
are seeing the total destruction of what Christians managed to build in
1,400 years” in terms of peaceful cohabitation and coexistence with Muslims.
This interpretation is vindicated, for example, by the fact that both
the sectarian ruling antagonists, who were brought to power in Iraq by the
invading U.S. army, and the al-Qaida –linked protagonists, whose presence in
Iraq coincided with the U.S. occupation of the country and who are waging a
sectarian war of terror to remove them from power, were both U.S. – made
warriors, the first as the “democratic opposition” to the national
“dictatorship” of late Saddam Hussein and the second as the “freedom
fighters” against the military occupation of Afghanistan by the former
Soviet Union “empire of evil,” according to the U.S. propaganda terminology.
In Iraq, the AFP on last May 20 reported that a “war on mosques” still
“rages.” Seven years earlier the bombing of the dome of the Shiite Al Askari
Mosque in Samarra, or the Golden Mosque, was followed by attacks on more
than 200 Sunni mosques within two days according to the UN mission in the
country. This is indeed a sectarian civil war, but its seeds were sown
during the U.S. “Operation Phantom Fury” in 2004 on what Iraqis call “the
city of mosques” of Fallujah, where scores of mosques were destroyed
completely or damaged by the Americans.
Singling out Plight of
Misleadingly or otherwise, the mainstream
western media is singling out the plight of Arab Christians in this blind
rampage, although their plight is incomparable to that of their Muslim
compatriots neither in numbers and magnitude of the phenomenon nor in the
resulting human, social, political, cultural and material losses.
Writing in the Gulf News on this September 11, Dr. Joseph A. Kechichian said
“it was impossible to separate the fate of Arab Christians from their Muslim
brethren, a term used here in the sense of fellow citizens not necessarily
brotherhood. Indeed, when Iraqi, Egyptian and now Syrian churches were/are
destroyed, it is necessary to also note that Sunni and Shiite mosques were
and are shelled on a regular basis.”
In Iraq for example more than
sixty churches were attacked since the U.S. invasion in 2003, but more than
four hundred Muslim mosques were targeted. An estimate of two thirds of
Iraq’s 1.5 million Christians have been forced to flee the country, but four
million Iraqi Muslims became refugees abroad and a few millions more were
internally displaced as the result of mass sectarian cleansing campaigns.
Patriarch al-Rai’e accused the international community of “total silence”
However, proportionally Arab Christians are now a
threatened species. Writing in Foreign Affairs on this September 13, Reza
Aslan expected “no significant Christian presence in the Middle East in
another generation or two” because “What we are witnessing is nothing less
than a regional religious cleansing that will soon prove to be a historic
disaster for Christians and Muslims alike.”
On this September 16 in
the town of Mezda south of Tripoli, the tomb and minaret of Sheikh Ahmad
al-Sunni mosque were bombed, a cemetery was dug up. In the capital, Tripoli,
itself explosives were detonated by remote control late last March inside
the Muslim Sufi ancient shrine of Sidi Mohammed al-Andalosi. These
“incidents” were the latest sectarian rampage. Last year, The New York Times
reported on August 25 the bulldozing of a mosque containing Sufi Muslim
graves “in broad daylight” in the “center” of the Libyan capital. A mosque
library was set on fire a day earlier. Scores of similar assaults since the
“revolution” toppled the Muammar Gaddafi regime late in 2011, including one
against the tomb of 15th-century Muslim scholar Abdel Salam al-Asmar, led
UNESCO to urge an “end to attacks on Libyan Sufi mosques.” UNESCO’s Director
General Irina Bokova warned the attacks “must be halted if Libyan society is
to complete its transition to democracy.”
In January this year, the
“revolutionary” government of Tunisia announced an “emergency” plan to
protect the Sufi mausoleums from similar sectarian vandalism, including
against two of the best known Sufi shrines of Saida Manoubia and Sidi Abdel
Aziz. UNESCO’s appeal to “Tunisian authorities to take urgent measures to
protect the heritage sites, which represent the country's cultural and
historical wealth” did not stop the sectarian rampage. In February this year
The Union of Sufi Brotherhoods in Tunisia reported at least thirty-four
shrines were attacked since the revolution forced former president Zine El
Abidine Ben Ali into exile in Saudi Arabia in 2011; the number is higher
according to other reports and the attacks continue.
In Egypt, UN
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had called
the recent attacks on mosques and churches “unacceptable.” As recently as
August 14, supporters of the first elected Egyptian president and the Muslim
Brotherhood leader Mohammad Morsi, who was removed from power on July 3rd,
occupied Delga, a remote town of 120,000 people in Minya province in central
Egypt, in a wave of retaliation attacks on dozens of police stations,
manpowered mostly by Muslim Egyptians, and at least 42 Christian churches,
of which 37 were burnt and looted.
British The Guardian on September
16 reported: “According to Christians in Delga, huge mobs carrying machetes
and firearms then attacked dozens of Coptic properties, including the
1,600-year-old monastery of the Virgin Mary and St Abraam,” torched three of
the five churches in the town, looting everything, killing some Coptic
compatriots, forcing scores of Christian families to escape the town, and
those who remained were forced to pay “protection money.” After more than
two months, authorities recaptured the town last week ending their ordeal.
Delga’s story was not the latest nor the longest, ugliest or largest of
the blind sectarian atrocities; to look for these, observers will find
plenty of ongoing daily manifestations of these atrocities in Iraq and Syria
where they are still raging at large, and where the control of authorities
could be the guess of anybody for the unforeseeable future, threatening to
spill over to the neighboring Arab countries of Lebanon and Jordan as well
as to the non-Arab and NATO member Turkey.
The Cradle of Diversity
The political degradation of the “Arab Spring” into
a sectarian counterrevolution is best illustrated in Syria. The former U.S.
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in a recent UPI report described the
current conflict in the country as a “Sunni confessional revolution” against
a ruling regime supported by other religious minorities. Kissinger was not
accurate. The majority of the Sunni Muslims in the major cities of Damascus
and Aleppo, which together are the home of half the population, are against
the sectarian “revolution” led by al-Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood, which
are not considered representatives of mainstream Islam or Muslims.
On last August 30 UNESCO warned that a rich cultural heritage was being
devastated by the conflict now in its third year, from Aleppo’s Umayyad
Mosque to the Crac des Chevaliers castle dating from the 13th century
The BBC on last April 23 quoted the Melkite Greek Catholic
Patriarch of the church of Antioch, Gregorios III Laham, as saying recently
that more than 1,000 Christians had been killed, "entire villages… cleared
of their Christian inhabitants", and more than 40 churches and Christian
centres damaged or destroyed. He reported that 450,000 of Syria’s two
million Christians have been displaced.
However the magnitude of the
plight of the Arab Syrian Christians should be seen within the context of
the wider disaster that befell the Muslim majority as a whole. More than one
hundred thousand Syrians are reported killed so far, hundreds of “Sunni”
mosques targeted, one third of the more than 23 million Syrians,
overwhelmingly Muslims of all sects, are now either refugees abroad or
internally displaced. It’s a national disaster and not only a Christian one.
The Catholic Pope Francis declared September 7 a day of fasting and
prayer for peace in Syria worldwide and his declaration was received
positively among other Christian churches as well as among the mainstream
Arab Muslim public opinion.
Two days ahead of “the day,” Islamist
sectarian counterrevolutionaries of Al Qaida-linked rebels, especially
Jabhat Al Nusra and the more extremist Ahrar Al Sham, targeted what Wadie
el-Khazen, chairman of the Maronite General Council, described as “the most
important Christian stronghold in Syria and the Middle East,” namely the
Syrian town of Maloula, which “retained its Aramaic heritage since Christ
spoke Aramaic” and holds many of the oldest monasteries and churches,
including Mar Thecla that predates the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. Shouting
“God is Great,” they declared they “won the city of the Crusaders,” which
became a “ghost town” within hours.
It was a clear retaliation
message to Pope Francis for not blessing their ongoing sectarian
Longer before the Americans of the “new world”
started to pose as the apostles who lecture and preach them, Syria has been
the oldest cradle of religious and ethnic diversity and coexistence.
Therefore the sectarian counterrevolution is now fighting in Syria its
bloodiest battle, the result of which will make or break its rising tide for
a long time to come.
* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist
based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.