The bullet and bomb-blast battle of the bullies is raging in Syria. The biggest bully is Bashar al-Asad, son of Hafez al-Asad who in February, 1982, sent his troops into the city of Homs and slaughtered between 10,000-40,000 civilians who dared to oppose his dictatorial rule. Hafez has slain his thousands, Bashar his tens of thousands. One estimate, reported by Reuters, estimates that between 94,000 and 120,000 Syrians have died in the wake of the Arab Spring that toppled other long-standing dictator regimes. Over a million and half Syrians are refugees who have fled the fighting to neighboring countries, where many do not find even the most basic humanitarian aid. Millions within Syria are in desperate shape, victimized by all sides. But the bully of Damascus hangs on, with Russian backing and Iranian duplicity.
There are other bullies in this fight, from a small faction of radical Muslims intent on reinstalling a caliphate where the Umayyads once ruled to seemingly secular-minded opponents of Asad’s brutal policies. And recently a new bully has arrived, the Hezbollah Hezbullies who control southern Lebanon and thrive as a thorn in the side of Israel. Israel, thus far, has mainly watched from the sidelines, no doubt content to see a bloodbath not directed at them. There was a sharp military response a couple of weeks ago to what appeared to be stockpiles of weapons from Iran on the Damascus road to Hezbollah.
In only a week since Hezbollah fighters crossed the border to attack rebels in the Syrian town of Qusayr, at least 79 and perhaps as many as 141 0f their number have been killed. Sheikh Nasrallah submitting his followers to a misguided internal jihad supporting the Asad regime is a desperate gamble as well as a dangerous gambit. But the rhetoric drones on. Speaking at a ceremony commemorating the 13th anniversary of the withdrawal of Israel from southern Lebanon, Nasrallah prophesied: “I say to all the honorable people, to the mujahedeen, to the heroes: I have always promised you a victory and now I pledge to you a new one” in Syria.” When did the Sunni Muslim Brothers become a greater evil than the Zionists to the south?
The blood shed thus far has been primarily Syrian, now with a new infusion of spilled Lebanese blood from Hezbollah, the party that claims to represent Allah. The original Shi’a at least had the common decency to call themselves Shi’at ‘Ali, rather than presume from the start that they exclusively spoke for Allah. If the partisans of the hundreds of sects that have evolved since the Prophet Muhammad received the Quran really want peace, they should stop selecting isolated verses from the original message for their own political agendas. Submission to Allah is the message of Islam, not submission to any party claiming to be Allah’s party, especially one that acts more like Hizb Shaytan.
Recently the Foreign Minister of Bahrein, Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa. has called Nasrallah a terrorist, ignoring the discriminatory practices against protesters in his own country. The renowned Egyptian cleric, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, from his fatwa-haven perch in Qatar, is supporting the opposition to al-Asad and thus is now in direct opposition to Nasrallah. Al-Qaradawi has even thanked the United States, the Great Satan of the country that peninsular Qatar points to geographically, for aiding the rebels. Franz Kafka would be challenged to find stranger bedfellows than those who are weighing in on the Syrian crisis.
Meanwhile, Muslims are killing Muslims because they think they are the wrong kind of Muslims in neighboring Iraq and up into Afghanistan, where a seasoned Taliban Spring may bring on a very hot summer of conflict as American troops get set to begin their withdrawal. Whatever damage Islamophobia has done to the image of Islam, and it is considerable, the Hezbullies, Taliban bullies, al-Qaeda bullies, Boko Haram bullies, Ansar al-Sharia bullies and the like have turned the Allah worshipped by over a billion and a half of their fellow Muslims into a divine vampire. Those crazed with jihad rhetoric have forgotten the meaning of the words of the bismillah where Allah is al-Rahman (merciful) and al-Rahim (compassionate) before all else. There is no need to add an ugly 100th name to the 99 beautiful names of Allah: al-Qâtal (the murderer) should be reserved for humans alone.
Daniel Martin Varisco is Professor of Anthropology and Director of Middle Eastern Studies at Hofstra U in Hempstead, NY. His most recent book is Orientalism: Said and the Unsaid. He is editor of Contemporary Islam and Editor-in-Chief of CyberOrient, the online journal of the Middle East Section of the AAA. His regular blog is Tabsir