What do you gain by attacking Shiites?

A bomb explodes at a mosque in Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city, killing 62 people. A week ago, before this explosion, another mosque was destroyed by a bomb in Kunduz, killing more than 100 people. What these two mosques had in common is that both were frequented by Shiite Muslims. But because of these explosions, the Shiites are not going to give up their sect, or stop attending their Friday prayers.

Yet, they are happening and, I am afraid, it seems they will keep happening more often. Why do the perpetrators keep repeating these atrocities? They are sowing the seeds of sectorial hatred among Afghans. But is it the only leitmotif of the slaughterers?

I am of the persuasion that social events (if you could call a suicide bomber killing dozens of worshipers in a holy place that) should be evaluated by their social impacts, not by their impact on the immediate surroundings. What must a regular Joe have thought when he heard that it was Daesh – or whatever name it goes by nowadays – that was behind the explosions. The extremist group that cannot be defeated by the mighty Taliban, who defeated the United States of America! So, everything about it must be true. It is a real danger to humanity. Even the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal editorial page managers were scared so much so that they have been publishing more than 10 articles on the subject that Daesh is real, and it is a threat not only to the U.S. but to all humanity.

What’s in a name?

Let’s think a little about the naming convention the Western media have on that terrorist organization. It was reported that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founder of menace, named it the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Daesh).”

Ask anybody, except those holding an MS, MA, or a Ph.D. in Middle Eastern History, if they ever heard – let alone used, the word “Levant.” It is a name given to an approximate historical geographical term referring to an area in the Eastern Mediterranean region of Western Asia. In its narrowest sense, it is equivalent to the historical region of Syria but has never been used to denote a definite area. It was used by the British in the talks between the British and French diplomats, Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot, when their respective governments were dividing the Ottoman Middle East even before its defeat. The British would give what is Iraq today to the French, in return for the Mediterranean shores; but during the implementation of the agreement, oil was discovered in Iraq and the British said the Levant was left to France.

Who knew where the Levant was? Late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had gotten Iraq and the oil. He later infamously said, “A drop of oil is more valuable than one drop of blood.”

So, Ahmad Fadeel al-Nazal al-Khalayleh (aka Abu Musab al-Zarqawi), a Jordanian extremist who ran an al-Qaida terrorist training camp in Afghanistan, on the top of the Hindukush mountains, thought to himself that the world needs a Shiite–Sunni civil war in the Levant. Somehow, after becoming able to transport tens of thousands of terrorists to Iraq, he started an all-out war on Shiites in September 2005.

He was not only an expert on religious issues and historical regional names, but also a magician on international transportation: He opened branch offices in Syria, Libya, Algeria, Central Africa, Gaza, Greater Sahara, Sinai, Somalia, Western Africa, Yemen and Khorasan.

Don’t you appreciate this peasant boy from the village of Zarq could do what even McDonald’s couldn’t? His organization was estimated to have an annual budget of more than $1 billion and more than 30,000 fighters.

Islamic is not Islamic

But still, the word Levant is a major suspect. The Western media, even the U.S., criticized the adoption of the name “Islamic State” and the idea of the Islamic Caliphate behind it, for it could be confused with a real state. But the group itself has not used that name; they call themselves “Caliphate,” and their leaders as “Caliph.” However, the Western media, including the BBC, which has been traditionally careful about how it calls what it calls, keeps referring it as “Islamic State” lest ye forget that what it is: Islamic!

They could use Daesh (or Daish) as the abbreviation of its proper name in Arabic: “al-Dawla al-Islamiya fil Iraq wa al-Sham” (Islamic State in Iraq and Damascus). The word Daesh does not mean anything in Arabic; quite the contrary, it sounds similar to an Arabic verb meaning to trample down something. But no! The Wall Street Journal ran the following headline: “Islamic State Bombing Kills at Least 38 People in Southern Afghanistan.” The Washington Post, on its National Security section, has this: “Biden administration attempts to overcome reluctance of nations to repatriate Islamic State fighters from Syria.”

When you finish reading the article you are grateful to the U.S. allies, the PKK’s Syrian wings, “11,000 suspected fighters remain imprisoned in makeshift prisons … At least 60,000 women and children are confined to camps housing Islamic State families.” But you need not worry: The PKK-led group that has partnered with the U.S. military to battle Daesh pleads for support to run detention facilities. The newspaper that declares beneath its masthead “Democracy Dies in Darkness” chose to keep its readers in the dark about the fact that the “Kurdish-led group was led by the PKK, a Kurdish group recognized by the U.S. government as terrorists.”

Here the main idea is “Islamic,” and behind it “sectarian war,” which brings us back to Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

Turkish Presidential spokesperson professor Ibrahim Kalın, in a Daily Sabah article five years ago, refuted the idea that an all-out sectarian war was underway across the Muslim world.

Yes, he said, all the appearances of a sectarian war were there, but Kalın demonstrated country by country that identity politics underlined much of the poverty, economic inequality, oppression, proxy wars, militias and related problems. They are ordinary socioeconomic and political issues camouflaged by maximalist identity claims.

“The Sunni-Shiite tensions in Lebanon are as much about sectarian identities as about a struggle for power and control. The war in Syria has very little to do with Sunni or Shiite Islam. Rather, it is about who will shape the future of this key Arab country regardless of the key players’ ethnic or sectarian identities,” he said.

Then, how do al-Zarqawi’s followers in Afghanistan, especially those who named themselves as Daesh-Khorasan Province (Daesh-K) but who operate in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Nangarhar, close to the drug and people-smuggling routes in and out of Pakistan, survive against the Taliban and how could they successfully commit these Shiite massacres? According to U.S. intelligence estimates, the group has only 3,000 fighters. The Taliban says their number is less than 1,000.

Pakistani officials say there are groups within the Taliban alliance “with a soft corner for Daesh.” The Haqqani Network keeps its ties and supports them just in case they part ways with the alliance. The Haqqani Network is a militant organization founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani, who emerged as a top Afghan warlord and insurgent commander during the anti-Soviet war. Sirajuddin Haqqani, Jalaluddin’s son, currently leads the group. Sirajuddin in August 2015 was named as a deputy to newly appointed Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Mansur – cementing the alliance between the Haqqanis and the Taliban. Yet, only the Hindukush Mountains are stationary in those lands; alliances shift easily. In that soft corner in the Haqqani hearts unfortunately lurks an enmity that can be exploited as the source of conflict.

Kalın had referred to a saying of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad that the differences of opinions of his close disciples are actually a mercy for the believers, if they listen to its wisdom to cherish the differences as a source of strength and richness, rather than division and strife.

The bombs are exploding for one and only one purpose: to dampen the voice of wisdom. It is impossible to hear the prophet in those blasts, neither by the Sunnis nor Shiites. That is what you gain by blowing up mosques.

Source: Daily Sabah

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About the author

Hakki Ocal

Hakki Ocal

Hakkı Öcal is a columnist at both Daily Sabah and Milliyet newspapers, which are based in Istanbul. He is also an advisor to the President of Ibn Haldun University.

Follow us on Twitter


Follow us on Twitter