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The War Within Islam ( 22 March 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Pakistani Al Qaida fuelling Shia-Sunni war in Syria


Masud Makram, New Age Islam

March 24, 2013

The armed uprising in Syria against President Bashar al Assad assumed heinous proportions on Friday when the diehard Sunni Muslim cleric Sheikh Al Buti was killed in a bomb blast inside a mosque. The civil revolt against the forty years old Assad dictatorship for democratic reforms has been taken over by Al Qaida faction Jabhat ul Nusrah which is fighting against the Assad regime. The political situation is getting complicated by the day because of the involvement of so many unorganised fighting groups – secular, Islamists, left wing and terrorist – in the fray. Sunni cleric Sheikh Al Buti was the source of strength for the Shia Alawite president against whom the Sunni majority is fighting.

The Free Syrian Army, a group comprising of former army officers and soldiers is one of the major forces fighting Syrian dictatorship and is largely secular. However, the al Nusrah which is a faction of Al Qaida is also a major force which represents radical Islamic ideology. The blast killing Sheikh Al Buti has signalled the beginning of Al Qaida style suicide bombings to eliminate sectarian and political opponents. All the opposition groups have condemned the attack suggesting that the blast might have been carried out by Al Qaida outfits.

Currently, the name of Pakistan has surfaced in connection with the role of Jabhat ul Nusrah in the insurgency in Syria. Last month, US undersecretary Hillary Clinton had made the serious statement that terrorists in Syria were getting  ‘messages’ from the central leadership of Al Qaida in Pakistan. Al Nusrah is originally linked to Al Qaida’s Iraq based branch which sends mercenaries to Syria. It means that Al Qaida network based in Syria, Pakistan and Iraq have become very active and powerful in Syria which may make matters worse for the country as NATO is contemplating miitary intervention in the strife-torn country. Al Qaida’s presence in terror-affected countries has given NATO justification for intervention in those countries. And if Al Qaida takes centrestage in Syria too, the NATO will also intervene there.

The minority Shia population is concerned over the developments as the removal of Bashar al Assad would mean taking over of the power by Sunni extremists not only causing a threat to their own existence but also to their beliefs and cultural and religious heritage. Thus, the fight against Bashar al Assad’s regime has turned into a Shia-Sunni strife with Al Qaida hell bent on hijacking the secular and democratic uprising to make it a war for establishing a Wahhabi-Salafi version of Islam where Shias are declared Kafir and deserving to be killed.

To counter the offenses of Al Qaida, the Shias of Iraq and neighbouring countries are travelling to Syria to protect and defend a famous mosque in Damascus named after Hadhrat Zainab, an important place of religious importance for the Shias.

The matters have been made worse by CIA aiding the secular rebels in Syria but there have also been reports that the weapons supplied to the rebels has been falling into the hands of terrorists. Since, Bashar al Assad’s case is different from that of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya as it has the support of Iran, Russia and other countries.

The blast in the mosque in Damascus to kill a political opponent reminds one of the blasts in mosques and shrines in Pakistan which underlines growing influence and participation of Al Qaida and Taliban elements of the ungoverned areas of Pakistan in Syrian insurgency. In any case, the future seems to be bleak for Syria.