Why doesn’t Muslim world support Iran against Israel?

Iran conducted its expected and “announced in advance” attack on Israel on April 13, in retaliation for Israel’s assault on Iran’s Embassy in Damascus, Syria, on April 1.

When the embassy was destroyed by Israel, as a result of which eight Iranians, including two army generals, were killed, the world was silent as always since the perpetrator was Israel, which frequently commits crimes with impunity. However, when Iran retaliated, particularly the Western world emphasized Israel’s right to defend itself and Iran’s aggression. They acted as if it was not Israel that initiated the violent conflict.

Western countries’ brazen hypocrisy was not surprising but the Muslim world did not back Iran, either. Although they all support Palestine against Israel, the majority of them remained silent or did not stress that Iran was right in attacks on Israel. Indeed, Iran was right as its attack was a response to Israel’s aggression. However, the Muslim world’s reaction was quite mild.

Theological differences

The basic reason for not supporting Iran is theological differences. Shiites split from Sunnis due to their claim that Caliph Ali, the Prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law, should have been the first caliph and accused the first three caliphs of usurping Ali’s right to precede the prophet. There were no wars for the throne after the death of the Prophet Muhammad but Shiites still maintain their vendetta. Hence, they are hostile to Sunnis. Besides hostility, they see Sunnis as a primary and near threat. While Shiites can be found in Asia, Africa and Europe, they are mainly settled in the Middle East and led by Iran, which accepts Shiite as its official sect/religion and has been spreading it since the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

Shiite doctrine argues that prophethood continues after the Prophet Muhammad through imams, 11 of whom did their duty, and the invisible one, Muhammad al-Mahdi is yet to re-appear the last one of the Twelve Imams whom God allegedly occulted in 874 and was last seen in 941. Since then, Shiites have waited for the hidden imam to come back and endure justice and equity together with Jesus during his second coming. Mahdi will fight Sufyan (a Muslim tyrant), Dajjal (anti-Christ), and interestingly Sunnis. According to Shiite Islam, Sunnis are usurpers of real Islam and they must be fought. Thus, Mahdi will take vengeance on Sunnis, who allegedly prevented the Prophet Muhammad’s family from ruling, and will establish a messianic state across the world.

Indeed, not only Shiite apocalyptic literature but also Shiites in real life target Sunnis. Shiites’ enemies are neither Christians nor Jews nor pagans. Historically, Shiites rarely fought non-Muslims unless their lands were invaded by them. In contemporary times, Iran is leading the Shiite world and the regime’s sole goal is reportedly to spread Shiite theology in the Muslim world though its actions, rather like those of a political movement.

Catalyst for regional conflict

There are few pieces of evidence that Shiites acted as missionaries to convert non-Muslims to Islam. On the other hand, the Shiite creed has reached Muslims in Nigeria, Yemen and the Balkans. An aspect of this spread is that it is political rather than religious. Iran has mobilized Shiite communities in Middle Eastern countries and caused civil unrest there. As of 2024, conflicts and/or wars in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq are due to Iran’s support of Shiite minorities.

Such involvement in the internal affairs of regional states has culminated in the death of hundreds of thousands of Muslims, civil wars and failed states. It can be argued that Iran’s foreign policy and goals only brought instability to the region. Therefore, besides Jewish Israel, Shiite Iran is also seen as a thug state in the Middle East by Muslims. Particularly, Iran’s recent actions in Syria, which helped Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime to kill approximately 500,000 Muslims, caused utmost fury against the Tehran government, not to mention its misuse of hard power in other Muslim states.

Hence, the antipathy towards Iran is expected to persist in the short and medium term. In the eyes of certain Muslim communities, notably Sunnis, both Israel and Iran are two bandits who similarly cause anarchy and death in the region.

Source: Daily Sabah

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