SHAFAQNA – Since almost everybody is speaking about Islamic terrorism and many people are accusing Islam of being a violent religion, I’d like to share this opinion, which is originally a speech I delivered in Stintino, Italy in January 2015, during the Dialogando (inter faith dialogue) conference.
First of all, I’d like to tell you a short history of my family. I’m a Syrian Christian of Armenian origin. My ancestors were victims of the Armenian genocide, which was committed by the Ottomans in 1915. Those who perpetrated the first genocide in the 20th century used very similar methods to the terrorist organizations in the Middle East such as ISIS, Al-Nusra Front, the Islamic Front, Ahrar Al-Sham, the so called Free Syrian Army, and many others.
If we speak objectively, the people who committed and are still committing these crimes claim to be Muslims. But I am a Christian whose family managed to reach Syria in 1915 and was protected by the Syrian Muslims.
Today, I’m alive and able to write on Facebook thanks to the true teachings of Islam, which consider Christians “people of the book” (God’s book). These are the same teachings that told the Muslims of Syria to protect Christians fleeing the massacres in Turkey. That’s the Islam that my father told me about, and that’s the Islam that I experienced in Syria.
However, after the so-called “revolution” in Syria and the rise of terrorist organizations, Islam is again accused of being a violent religion. Personally, I can’t deny the fact that some Muslims in the Middle East and around the world are behaving violently toward other sects and religions, but what is the origin of this modern terrorism? The answer is in Wahhabism, which is the school of thought in Saudi Arabian law.
In different eras, various communities acted violently, and their violence was justified by religious interpretations, and that’s the same thing with Islam. The Wahhabi interpretation of Islam generated and organized violence among some Muslims. Therefore, I refuse to call Saudi Arabia the representative of Sunni Islam, because those who adopted the Wahhabi ideology killed the most Sunni Muslims in the Islamic world compared to other sects and religions. They even killed Sunni clerics who refused their interpretation of Islam. For example, they assassinated Imam Ramadan al-Bouti, who was the idol of modern and moderate Islam in the Levant.
Historically, this started in Afghanistan when Saudi Arabia, with the blessing of the CIA, supported the so-called Mujahedeen to expel the Soviet Union from the country. These “freedom fighters”, according to the American narrative, formed the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization and attacked the US on 9/11.
Unfortunately, the American administration adopted the same strategy to weaken the government of Syria under the pretext of democracy and human rights. The so-called Free Syrian army was only a mask to cover the dirty face of the fundamentalists who were leading the uprising against the government since the very beginning of the crisis. In other words, the US and some European governments gave political cover to these extremists in order to reshape the balance of power in the Middle East, and the result was the rise of ISIS, Al-Nusra Front, and other terrorist organizations.
Therefore, Westerners should hold their governments responsible for their policies that weakened the central government in Syria and gave the opportunity to radical elements to jump over the popular demands for a better political system and turned Syria into a hell for everybody.
Terrorism cannot be divided. There is no moderate and extremist terrorist. We condemned the attacks in Paris and elsewhere, because we believe in humanity, and there are many mutual values among us, but we also ask you to express solidarity with the victims of terrorism in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine, because by doing so, we unify our efforts against the same enemy.
Now what is the solution for the current Islamic violence? Dialogue is extremely important, and let’s face the truth: we lack dialogue in the Middle East. We don’t know the culture of dialogue, and we are mostly not able to tolerate other opinions. However, this dialogue should be in parallel with a political solution.
The Western governments should withdraw the legitimacy from their allies who radicalize the youth in the Middle East. Geopolitics should never be an excuse for human tragedy. We, in Syria, suffered enough. It is time to stop the countries that created Islamic extremism. I’m asking the Western governments to stop their intervention in our internal affairs, because if Syrians were demanding democracy in 2011, now they are looking for bread to feed their kids and fuel to heat them.
Fighting terrorism cannot be done by airstrikes. We should dismantle the ideological sources of this terrorism, and I believe it is not difficult to trace them. We can find it in the speeches of some clerics, such as the influential cleric Youssef al-Qaradawi, who issued a fatwa to kill everybody (civilians and soldiers) who dare to stand against their radical revolution. Many other Wahhabi clerics in Saudi Arabia who issue similar fatwas on influential news channels such as Al-Arabiya, and many others, who put all journalistic values aside and act as a machine of radical indoctrination to our youth and a warhead for the foreign policy of their backward dictatorships.
If they continue with these policies, the near future will witness more wars, much more brutal than the one in Syria and Iraq. Therefore, I have the responsibility to shed the light on these realities and urge our friends and brothers and sisters in humanity to solidify our efforts to fight this extremely dangerous cancer that is destroying human civilization all around the world.
By Kevork El Massian – This article was published first in Morocco World News.