Sectarian Apologetics: Husayniyya in Idlib

Recently footage has been released showing how burning and destruction took place at the Husaniyya in Idlib by the hands of the `Amr bin Ma`ad Yakrib al-Zubaydi battalion. Although most Syrians would find such actions deplorable, there have also been some apologetic responses to what has occurred.

One of these responses has been denial, believing instead that only some flags were burned outside and that no further burning or destruction took place. Indeed, that is what took place outside. A fire blazing on the inside however could clearly been seen in the video [from the previous post] as well. In fact, the activists who released this video titled it: The Husaynniya of the Shia [“Shabbiha” was added in an earlier release of the video] was burned by the heroes of the FSA.” In addition to the fire, things being shattered inside can be heard amidst calls for destruction outside. There is no room for denial of targeted burning and destruction.

A few other comments were collected on Yalla Souriya. One point was that a Husayniyya is not a Mosque. I was under the impression that it was a Jami` named Husayniyya and apparently that is wrong. I’m not familiar with how these are to be classified considering they are largely dedicated to the Ashura commemoration. But that is not at all relevant. Whether it is a Jami`, a Masjid, a Zawiya, a Husayniyya, a Khalwa, a Church, a Synagogue or a Temple these are places dedicated to worship and religious gatherings. These belong to their respective religious communities. Even more so if there are shrines inside them, which I’m not aware of in this case.

Another point was there are no Shi`a in that area, as if a local community needs to be attached to something for it not to be burned and destroyed. Even if it doesn’t belong to a local community, it belongs to their national religious community. And even if there would be nothing of such left in the entire country then it still belongs to the country itself. It doesn’t have to be a religious place to begin with, it is simply not the property of this or that battalion that captures it to do with it as it pleases.

Yet another point was that it used to be Sunni and was transformed by the regime, but burning and destroying it doesn’t make it Sunni again! And yet another one was that it was used by Iran [to spread hatred], but how does its destruction and burning make it Syrian again? There are no justifications for these acts even if all these things were true, instead it is lawlessness, ignorance, and the destruction of peoples’ and the country’s [religious] property. There are proper, civilized, shar`i ways to go about such issues and how to solve them with different religious communities if there would be any need to.

If the culprits or their supporters believe to have any Islamic justification for this act, they should refer to the one who authorized it, and offer his evidences and reasoning for scrutiny by the scholarly community. Apologetics are no substitute for this, and unfortunately there isn’t much to be expected either. I doubt that those involved in this rampage care for religious scholarship to begin with and can see beyond the blinding sectarianism that drove them to such acts, and I wonder if this is any different for those who excuse them.

One particular comment that suggests that for some apologists it is in fact sectarianism what it is really about is the one about it being a place of “crying & beating themselves saddically”, referring to their Ashura practices. Then follows the famous video of the Shi`i cleric who loses it which is then described as not sacred and spreading hate. In other words, the hatred spread [by Iran or others] in those places is their unholy religion itself. This is nothing but justifying the act on the basis religions and religious practices that are associated with it being deemed abhorrent. Such is no longer apologetic, and it fits the way the activists have described the video and the way we see that battalion behave in it.

There was however another video that was released by the same activists shortly after:

Those who excuse these barbaric acts because of the religion or sect that is being targeted should realize what they are getting themselves into. These are sectarian declarations of war, they come with a price. They should also know that it will not be possible to endlessly exploit the general ignorance that may exist in the country concerning the ideologies and movements that justify and fight sectarian wars. There are still many, and most of all the Sunni scholars, who are well aware against what groups other than the Twelver Shi`a, the Isma`ilis, the `Alawites or the Druze, wars would be declared as well by such extremists.

When today’s “heroes” [Jabhat al-Nusra, not the battalion at hand] for many of the sectarian groups [perhaps for this battalion as well] blew up the grave of Shaykh Muhammad Jarabeh in Aleppo, simply because they did not like what they saw there, Shaykh al-Ya`qoubi responded by asking: Has the war on the Sunnis started? Do not think that Salafism won’t be at the receiving end as well if a sectarian war in Syria is fought in its name against traditional Sunnis, Shi`a or anyone else. Not only will people defend their religion, but extremist excesses can take place from and against all groups involved.

As for people who are looking the other way for whatever reason, such as it not directly affecting them or being in denial, they should realize what lies at the end of this path and who are responsible for pushing the country onto it. A sectarian campaign of genocide and mass destruction has already been unleashed by the Assad regime upon its people. Civilized as they are, the Syrian people did not respond in kind. The regime realized that the only way to change that beyond making the people suffer without any mercy and using sectarianism in doing so, is to plant and promote an ideology amongst the people that does respond in kind.

Assad declared war against the Syrian people by ascribing this ideology to them 21 months ago already, long before it even existed in Syria, and has propagated this kind of war ever since. Every time sectarian and extremist acts take place in the name of Sunni Islam, whose teachings are free from all these kinds of rampages of destruction, Assad is one step closer to the war he has been trying to create from the beginning. As if the Sunnis have not suffered enough already, they will continue to suffer the most as they are targets for all of the extremists involved.

Furthermore, this entire process is not limited to Muslim sectarianism, and neither is the ideology that is driving a sectarian response to the regime’s atrocities. This concerns all religions and their communities as well as various political ideologies and the ethnicities, cultures and other parts of society associated with them. Fear and regime propaganda has been a factor for many to keep their distance from the revolution, and the growing extremism is used to justify this mentality.

It is up to the revolution itself to understand what this is about, why it is there and who is responsible for it, and isolate it in order to free itself from it completely, leaving only its true values as represented by the overwhelming majority of its supporters, its activists, its fighters, its political leaders, its scholars and everyone else involved. There are already so many problems because of peoples’ suffering and failures to alleviate this on all sorts of levels while the regime is continuing to burn the country and annihilate its people. Sectarian wars being fought in the name of the revolution is the very last thing it needs.

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