SHAFAQNA – Unknown to mainstream media, or maybe untold by mainstream media, communities in Syria and Iraq have been active in their resistance against the threat, and cancerous evil which is Daesh – the ultimate acronym of terror, this abomination which has drawn its strength from Wahhabism, Saudi Arabia’s state religion.
Besieged, threatened and in the midst of a fight they cannot possibly fight alone, communities across the Greater Levant have chosen to rise against the differences which separate them, to better find unity in the enemy they all share: Wahhabi fundamentalism.
Under Daesh’s new religious paradigm, all who are not absolutely loyal to its dogma have been earmarked for destruction, slavery or exploitation. In the land of the Black Flag there is no room for religious or political pluralism, there is no room for such value as tolerance and brotherhood, and no room for respect of other’s differences of opinions.
Millions have suffered the boot of radicalisms, millions have run before its armies, hoping that flight would offer salvation … but as communities fled, as they walked out of their homes and away from their lands it is their heritage which was left behind … defenceless before the wrath of Wahhabi-militants.
Iraqis and Syrians watched in horrors as their monuments, their churches, temples and mosques was set on fire or bombed to oblivion … they watch still as their history, and the links which connected them to their fate cracked and burnt under Daesh’s blind rage.
The tombs of saints have been looted, shrines have been defiled, men of God were taken prisoners and abused, nuns were mocked and humiliated, divine texts were trampled over and faiths were ridiculed. For every churches which were taken down, for every sanctified ground which was violated communities have cried the loss of their traditions, their history, and their soul.
A country is made of much more than its people … it is its collective memory, its history, its beliefs and its religious heritage. Syria and Iraq are all of things. Their lands saw walked prophets and saints, its skies witness the rise and falls of kingdoms of old – it is this memory, this echo of what once was which stood within its stones and artefacts. It is humanity’s history and its religious heritage which are being destroyed today – still few have cared to rise in opposition or condemnation.
But Syrians and Iraqis are running no more. Many instead have chosen to stand in the land of their forefathers to face this plague which seeks to annihilate them – the last guardians of a nation, the last hope of a people.
Those men and women have found unity and brotherhood in their differences, and while they may kneel before God in a different fashion, while their lips might utter different prayers, it is still the God of Abraham they worship in unison.
Samuel, an Iraqi priest who asked to remain anonymous said the most striking thing: “There is no burden we cannot carry and no task we cannot overcome if we do so in the light of God. If we are not brothers in faith we are still God’s children. God makes no distinction between His flock, he seeks only the purest hearts. Our hearts are united in prayer … prayer against evil, prayer against injustice, prayer that we will be saved, if not in life, then maybe in death … There is dignity in resistance, there is power in conviction, there is great strength to be found in the love our Lord offered us in His Scriptures.”
Today Muslims, Yazidis and Christians have risen a resistance together – their determination to reclaim their land, their holy sites and their faith knows no boundary.
In Iraq this new resistance first manifested in the call for arms issued by Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq’s most revered Shia Muslims, a cleric well-known for his disdain and rejection of violence, a man made strong by his compassion and great respect for all people. A true son of Islam, Ayatollah Sistani enacted Islam’s purest tradition when he called on his followers to stand an army in the protection of all: regardless of their faith, regardless of their ethnicity, for before injustice and tyranny believers do not waver, or barter.
“Given the current threat facing Iraq, defending the land, honor and holy places is a religious duty,” said a statement from Ayatollah Sistani that was read by his representative in Karbala.
Those are the sons and daughters of Iraq and Syria. Tens of thousands answered the calls, more since have come to pledge their arms to the resistance, so that together they would break Terror’s dominion. And while many saw in Ayatollah Sistani’s message a threat, it is maybe because they fail to recognize the universality of his reach.
This call was not sectarian; it was a call to transnational resistance.
For 18 months now Christians have stood by their Muslims brothers, sharing in the same hardship and the same dream of liberation. For 18 months this grand resistance has seen men and women of all faiths share in the same fight for the sake of a future they want to believe still exist away from violence.
Those are the stories which hardly ever make it to the media. Those are the stories which prove that sectarianism and hatred are not inherent to the Middle East – the land of God’s prophets.
By Catherine Shakdam for Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies