Syria Is Dying

The horrific early morning gas attack on the suburb of Damascus that killed hundreds ??? possibly more than a thousand ??? of men, women and children screamed to the world: Syria is dying. Its agonies are spelled out daily as the death toll rises and refugees continue to escape bringing firsthand accounts of the destruction and deprivation of civil war. Also dying are hopes for the creation of a secular, nationalist, democratic government in the immediate future. Instead, Syria has become the locus of a proxy war, no longer just among world powers with competing economic and oil interests in the region, but fast becoming a battleground between Sunni and Shia, the two main branches of Islam.The schism between Shia and Sunni has been a historical reality for Islam since its beginning, and the current impact has been described by Barry Rubin as ???equivalent perhaps to the Sino-Soviet conflict???s effect on world affairs in the Cold War era.??? The unrest is global, affecting Muslim communities all over the world. Once united by the common enemies of Islamophobia and economic disparity, Muslim communities today increasingly seek their individuality through sectarian identity. Islam, it seems, is quickly becoming a house divided and instead of the debate taking place in scholarly surroundings, it is happening on the bloody battlefields of places like Syria.The rhetoric of the highly influential Sunni cleric Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi exemplifies the sectarian animosity gripping the Arab world. At a rally in Doha in May 2013, he called fellow Sunni Muslims to join the rebels fighting the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, denouncing Assad???s Alawite Shia supporters as being ???more infidel than Christians and Jews.??? He said that the Shia Lebanese militia Hezbollah should not be called ???the party of God??? but instead ???the party of the Devil.???In response, Sheik Hassan Nasrullah, leader of the Hezbollah, has accused Sunnis of being fanatical ???takfiri??? jihadists an



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