On July 19, the chief administrator of the shrine of Hazrat Zainab (RA) in Syria was killed during shelling and some part of the shrine was damaged. This was a significant blow as the shrine of the granddaughter of Hazrat Mohammad (SAW) and the sister of Hazrat Hussain (RA) is dear to Muslims all around the world, and is considered as a sacred holy site by Shia Muslims. The attack was condemned and the loss mourned by people all around the world, including Pakistan, where key political figures spoke against it and calls for protests were made to stand up against such a cowardly attack. The shrine is now safe and reportedly under control of the Lebanon-based Shia militant group Hezbollah. The attack is seen as proof, along with some controversial fatwas from Salafi clerics that the on-going conflict in Syria is caused by “foreign-funded terrorists” to disrupt peace and dismantle the government of Bashar-al-Assad.
Looking at the bigger picture, more than 100,000 people have been confirmed as killed as a result of the Syrian civil war and 1.7 million Syrians have fled the country to seek refuge from this bloody conflict which started a little over two years ago as another uprising against dictatorial rule inspired by the Arab Spring.
The Syrian government and military led by the Assad family is familiar with bloodshed as they have fought with Sunni Muslims ever since the Ba’ath party took control of the country, at one point killing up to 40,000 Sunni Muslims. They also have experience in siege and occupation from their 29-year stay in Lebanon.
After suffering from the atrocities of the Assad regime for almost half a century, the people took inspiration from revolutions in near-by Egypt, Tunisia and Libya to stand up and demand that Bashar al Assad resigns as president. However, things took a bloody turn as the government resorted to the military to deal with the protests expecting to regain control as they had done on previous occasions; failing to realize that the Arab Spring had given people a new hope and strength. The protestors responded to the military attacks and siege with armed rebellion aiming to either over-throw the government and win, or die fighting.
In these two years the fighting has been violent and fierce, with stories of rape, torture, death, destruction and use of chemical weapons emerging continuously. Yet, for some reason the Syrians have found little support from the outside world. The Arab countries continue to give meaningless warnings to the Syrian government. The UN and USA, who were anything but slow in deciding to invade Iraq, can’t seem to decide whether to intervene or not. Attempts are being made to change the public opinion on the war by planting fabricated stories of “fatwas to rape captured Alawite women”, “the rebels being armed and funded by the Saudi Wahabis” and “the rebels being under-cover CIA agents aiming to plant a US-friendly ruler in Syria”. The recent attack on the shrine is icing on the cake for the propagandists.
Back in Pakistan, these fabricated stories are considered to be true by the people as the Shia-influenced social media and news media fails, as always, to show both sides of the picture. The people do not know about the attacks on Omari Mosque and Hazrat Khalid bin Waleed’s (RA) shrine. People do not know of the involvement of Iranian troops and the Shia-militant group Hezbollah as they stand with the Syrian government in raping, torturing and killing men, women and children. The people do not know about the worsening living conditions in areas under siege such as Homs and Aleppo. Hence, even though the people do condemn and protest against attack on Hazrat Zainab’s (RA) shrine, they choose to ignore the bigger picture and not condemn or protest against the atrocities being done by Bashar-al-Assad’s government and troops.
For a neutral observer such display of selective sympathy and negligence is surprising, especially when it comes from the people who claim to be the flag bearers of human rights, democracy, freedom of expression and speech, from people who took part in nation-wide protests against Shia killings in Quetta and Karachi, from people who were quick to show their solidarity with the Turkish people when the Turkish police used just rubber bullets to disperse the protesters. A neutral observer sees division under the flag of unity, irrational hatred and criminal negligence under the flag of humanity, bias and intolerance under the flag of freedom of speech. The observer begins to realize that these people only speak up when their family, friends or people with similar religious affiliations are attacked. Despite their claims, they have no interest in speaking up against injustices purely out of humanity and sympathy. These protests are only a false dawn for Pakistanis, they are still asleep.
It is narrated that Abdullah ibn Umar (May Allah be pleased with him and his father), said that: “I saw the Prophet (Peace be upon him) performing tawaf around the Ka’bah, saying (to the Ka’bah), ‘How pure you are! And how pure is your fragrance! How great you are! And how great is your sanctity! By He in whose hands lies the soul of Muhammad, the sanctity of a believer is greater with Allah than even your sanctity (i.e the Ka’bah). That is (the sanctity) of his wealth, his blood and that we think nothing of him but good.’” [Ibn Majah]. Nu’man bin Bashir reported Allah’s Messenger (May peace be upon him) as saying: “The believers are like one person; if his head aches, the whole body aches with fever and sleeplessness.” [Sahih Muslim: 6260].
To conclude, it is time for us as Pakistanis to decide and take a stance once and for all. I stand against oppression, torture, rape, murder and ethnic cleansing of the Syrian people, where do you stand?