Islam Times Exclusive:
Patriotic Syrians stand united behind Bashar al-Assad
26 Nov 2011 16:15
Author : Mohamed Omar
Islam Times - A young man, only 22-year-old, was recently assassinated in Syria. The shooting occurred outside Ibla University on the Idlib-Aleppo highway. The victim,s name was Saria Hassoun. He was the son of Sheikh Ahmad Hassoun, the Grand Mufti of Syria. Saria and his father were Sunni Muslims ...
Islam Times: This is not the first time that Sunni clerics have been murdered in Syria. During the Wahhabi-inspired uprising of 1982 the son of the then Grand Mufti Ahmad Kuftaro was murdered. Other clerics who fell victim to terrorism in that time were Muhammad al-Shami in 1980 and Rashid al-Khatib, the preacher of the Umayyad mosque in Damascus, in 1981.
These murder victims were not just anybody. They were respected Sunni leaders, symbols of the Sunni community in Syria. Many times we read in Western newspapers that the crisis in Syria is a conflict between the Sunni majority and the Alawite minority. That is simply not true.
These journalists and commentators – deliberately or out of ignorance – fail to distinguish between Sunnis and Wahhabis. They hide the conflicts within the Sunni community itself. Sunnis do not make up one single and homogenous community. They are divided along political, economical and religious lines.
The main religious divide within the Sunni community is the one between so called “traditional Sunnism”, which has a pluralistic view of Islamic law and spirituality and the “Wahhabi sect”, which stubbornly refuses to accept any other interpretations except their own and completely disregard the Sunni theological, philosophical and spiritual heritage.
The Wahhabi sect emerged in the mid 18th century from the desert region of Najd of what is now known as Saudi Arabia. The sect was severely weakened by the Ottomans but after the First World War, with the help of the British, they managed to conquer the whole of the Arabian Peninsula, including the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, which they still occupy.
The Mufti of Syria, the highest religious authority in the country, is a Sunni, not a Wahhabi. So were the other Sunni clerics that were killed by the so called opposition. In the eyes of the Wahhabis, non-Wahhabi Sunnis, like Hassoun, are in reality infidels and “grave worshippers” that have to be converted to Wahhabism or killed.
The so called opposition in Syria is strongly influenced by Wahhabism. Many of its leaders revere the founder of Wahhabism, the bloodthirsty and simple minded preacher Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab of Najd and his mentor Ibn Taiymiyya.
In an interview for Al-Jazeera made by American journalist Nir Rosen , Ahmad Hassoun stated that “Wahhabi satellite channels” are inciting sectarian violence. He was referring to the Saudi channel Wesal, which airs sermons by the Wahhabi fanatic Adnan al-Arur, an ignorant and rude man. Among many horrible things he said that it is incumbent upon his followers to slaughter Alawis and feed their flesh to the dogs.
Sunnis are the targets of this Wahhabi “Islamophobia” as much as Shiites. We must not forget that Muslims can be really nasty Islamophobes too. In fact the Wahhabi Islamophobia, directed towards other Muslims, both Sunnis and Shiites, is often far nastier than the infamous Danish cartoons.
The Saudi regime operates – through religious institutions and media networks – a global machinery of extreme and deadly Islamophobia. Billions of dollars are spent on campaigns to demonize other Muslims, to degrade, humiliate and mock them. In comparison to the Wahhabi Islamophobia, that actually advocates massacring other Muslims, the Danish cartoons are quite harmless.
In Syria Sunnis, Shiites (including Alawis) and Christians have been able to live together in peace much thanks to the wise policies and religious tolerance of Hafez al-Assad and his son Bashar, the present president. In the book The Shia Revival (2006) by American-Iranian political scientist Vali Nasr he states that Alawis and Sufis, i.e. the mystical brotherhoods within the Sunni tradition, have a common interest in preserving the status quo.
“The influence of Sufism on Muslim life and thought has generated tolerance for Shiism in many Sunni societies. Where Sufism defines Islamic piety, Shias have found greater acceptance. In South Asia, for instance, the Brelwi school of Islam, which integrates Sufi teachings into Sunni theology and law, has always been more tolerant of the Shia.” (p. 60)
Nasr then goes on to say that Sufis and Shiites share a common enemy in Wahhabism. For instance, in Iraq and Pakistan the Wahhabi fanatics that attack Shiites also attack Sufis. Therefore Shiites and Sufis in Syria have joined hands against the Wahhabis. “The two have come to make a common cause in confronting their common adversary. Syria provides a modern example of cooperation between Shiism and Sufism.” (p. 61)
“Qaidism”, that is the ideology of the all these independently operating terrorist groups lumped together under the Al-Qaeda umbrella, did not emerge out of Sunnism or Shiism, and absolutely not out of Sufism, rather it shares the same roots as Wahhabism, i.e. the pharisaic teachings of Ibn Taiymiyya and Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab.
In an article published 2005  British scholar Timothy J. Winter, who is also a Sunni theologian and spiritual leader, wrote:
“Al-Qaida sympathizers regard the traditional Sunni muftis and imams, not only as politically spineless, but as heretical. Mainstream imams, including those trained in the UK’s 16 Muslim seminaries, follow traditional Sunnism, while al-Qaida is rooted in Wahhabism, the eighteenth-century reform movement of central Arabia. Strict Wahhabis consider the theology and piety of mainline Sunnism to be kufr (disbelief). Hence Wahhabi radicals have not hesitated to kill Muslims, including senior scholars; indeed, Muslims have always been al-Qaida’s principal victims.”
“Wahhabism represents a sort of Islamic Reformation: scripturalist, literal-minded, hostile to the veneration of saints and to philosophical theology.”
“Wahhabism was generally loathed in the Islamic world when it made its first appearance in the eighteenth century. The collapse of Ottoman power during the First World War allowed it to assert itself and, amid scenes of shocking massacre, the Holy Cities were annexed. In the late twentieth century, the explosion of oil wealth allowed Saudi Arabia to export this same Puritanism to the outside world. “
One cannot deny that there are a handful of traditional Sunni figures that have sided with the political opposition in Syria, probably out of opportunistic rather than religious reasons. The armed insurgency though is completely dominated by Wahhabis of the qaidistic color.
Because of the divide within the Sunni community of Syria it is inaccurate to speak of the “Sunni majority” being discontent with the government of Bashar al-Assad. On the contrary, large segments of the Sunni community consider his government a protection against Wahhabi fanaticism. Non-Wahhabi Sunnis, especially Sufis, are as worried about the Wahhabization of Syria as are their Alawite and Christian countrymen. The ruling Ba’ath Party is 80 or 90 percent Sunni.
When the Wahhabi sect arose in the 18th century the first victims of their terror were Sunnis. The unholy warriors of Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab and Ibn Saud looked upon the Sunni inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula as “grave worshippers”. Sunnis were slaughtered in droves, their books burned and their mosques and shrines razed to the ground.
According traditional Sunni theology Muslims are encouraged to venerate Saints, to construct shrines on their burial places, go on pilgrimages to visit them and to ask for their intercession. That is why, in every Sunni country of the world, you will find shrines in every town and village. Only recently, due to the spread of Wahhabism, have these beliefs and practices started to be questioned.
If the government of Bashar al-Assad should crumble and fall we would shortly thereafter, most certainly, see the destruction of shrines in Syria. We saw what happened in Libya. Then the Wahhabi nature of the opposition, especially the Saudi funded armed insurgency, will be exposed. Damascus is home to several very important shrines, venerated and visited by both Sunnis and Shiites, such as Sayyida Zaynab and Ibn Arabi.
Saudi Arabia should not complain about the state of religious freedom of Sunnis in Syria. The Saudi regime is not Sunni and has got nothing to do with Sunnism what so ever. It is a Wahhabi regime that looks upon Sunnis as infidels and “grave worshippers”. Sunnis have absolutely no religious rights in Saudi Arabia. They have no mosques and are not allowed to express their faith publicly. As a matter of fact the condition of Sunnis is much better in the Shiite majority country of Iran than in Saudi Arabia! The Wahhabi clerics cunningly disguise themselves as Sunni in order to manipulate uneducated Muslims.
Sunnis clerics have been killed by Wahhabis in Lebanon as well. The Ahbash is a very devout Sunni Lebanese organization which completely denounces Wahhabism. One cannot but admire their strong commitment and courage. On August 31st 1995 their leader Shaykh Nizar al-Halabi was assassinated by masked gunmen as he was leaving his home in Beirut.
The Ahbash enjoy friendly relations with the Syrian government and its members have staged several rallies across Europe to show support for president Bashar al-Assad. This stance is not new. Following the Zionist murder of Hariri in 2005 and the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon thereafter, the Ahbash took to the streets in Beirut in a show of solidarity with Syria. The Ahbash are closely aligned to the Amal movement, founded by Imam Musa al-Sadr, which also has a pro-Syrian orientation. If a civil war would break out in Syria it would most likely quickly spread to Lebanon.
The Grand Mufti of Syria stands fearlessly with the Syrian people against this unholy alliance of Zionist and Wahhabi forces, trying to destroy their country. In his patriotism as well as his religious tolerance he resembles another Arab Mufti, namely the famous Hajj Amin El-Husseini, Mufti of Jerusalem during World War II. Both are patriots, both are Anti-Zionists, both have a Sufi background and both have an open minded approach to Shiism. El-Husseini issued an edict concerning the Alawis, in which he found them to be Muslims and called on all Muslims to work with them for mutual good in a spirit of brotherhood.
With Sayyid Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese resistance, Hassoun shares another thing: both have sacrificed their sons in the struggle for independence, dignity and freedom. Patriotic, honorable and Anti-Imperialist Sunnis, Shiites and Christians stand united against the armed Wahhabi insurgency and the US-Zionist plans for regime change in Syria.
 Nir Rosen, 3/10 2011, “A conversation with Grand Mufti Hassoun”, Al-Jazeera
 Timothy J. Winter, July 2005, “Islam’s Heart of Darkness”
Mohamed Omar is a Swedish poet and freelance writer
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