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The middle path.

Abdulrahman Alrashed

Some have found it difficult to use terms such as "Shiite," "Sunni" and "Alawite" when describing events in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. It is unpleasant to categorize and divide people according to their beliefs. Political disagreements used to be over intellectual ideologies and patriotic affiliations, but now religion is politics. Clerics have become politicians, and religious groups have become political parties. They include Hezbollah, Daesh, Ansar Allah, Al-Nusrah Front, and League of the Righteous. Many thought political Islam would unite the region's peoples, but this has not been the case. An example is the hostility between the Shiite Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood. Sunni Islam has itself become divided, with extremist groups such as Al-Nusrah Front and Daesh slaughtering each other. Observers cannot but describe these wars as sectarian. Some have been frightened by this description because of its association with hideous crimes. Some have denounced my description of certain Shiite parties as terrorists, just as others have condemned my description of some Sunni groups as terrorists. Some Shiite and Sunni intellectuals consider Hezbollah a moral and sacred organization that must not be included in the same category as other terrorist groups. However, I have always viewed Hezbollah as a party with an eliminatory, extremist ideology that believes in resorting to violence against people of its own sect should they disagree with it. Hezbollah has also been responsible for assassinations of its Arab rivals inside and outside Lebanon. The fact that Hezbollah spent most of its active years confronting Israel does not justify the party imposing its ideology and presence on others. The same applies to violent Sunni groups. We have spent some 15 years confronting Salafist jihadist groups such as Al-Qaeda, and we are currently confronting ISIS and Al-Nusrah Front. Therefore, our stance is based on principles, not selectivity between violent Sunni and Shiite groups. The same applies to the organizational Alawite ideology of Bashar Assad's sectarian group in Syria. Criticizing Shiite militias does not express Sunni sectarianism as long as we hold both sides to the same moral standards. The importance of intellectual figures is that they are society's leaders. Although they are the least sacrificing or involved in fighting, they guide and influence society's different parties. The so-called Arab Spring led to people conflating Assad with Alawites, Hezbollah with Shiites, and Daesh with Sunnis. As such, the need to confront sectarianism in politics has increased. It is impossible to overcome this crisis without intellectuals clearly condemning sectarian murder, violence in the name of religion, Sunni-Shiite divisions, the Syrian regime's Alawites, and the Houthis in Yemen. No one will emerge victorious from sectarian wars, which could last for decades.

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Date:Jun 16, 2015
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