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From the Pope to the Sayyed - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Look around and you will see that the world has become overwhelmed by chaos and is filled with rivalry and religious conflict. The Pope quotes the anti-Islamic rhetoric of a five hundred-year-old Byzantine emperor, Sheikh Yusuf al Qaradawi considers Shiism a danger and Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah announces that his victory over the enemy was from God. In Iraq, the blood of innocents is shed next to schools and mosques whilst Al Qaeda continues to issue statements about its violent battles and its call to Islam.

The region has not changed a great deal even if names, faces and slogans have. The followers of Marx and Lenin have gone and the grandchildren of Adam Smith have been silenced. Abdul Nasser, Qahtan al Shaabi, Wadi Haddad and George Habash have all disappeared. Religious sermons have come face to face with those of other doctrines, Islamic and Christian, Sunni and Shia, Salafi and Jihadist.

Sheikh Yusuf al Qaradawi has warned of Shia infiltration, the new Pope sees Islam as nothing but a sword, the Shia Sayyeds have reacted to al Qaradawi, al Qaradawi called for mass protest on Friday 18 September against the Pope, only to be challenged by the Sayyed of Hezbollah (Nasrallah) who announced that there would be a victory rally on that same Friday. Only a small number of people in the Jordanian capital heeded to al Qaradawi’s call, whilst the majority sat at home to watch the Lebanese rally on television. Meanwhile, the rivalry continues between the Sayyeds and the bishops.

How does the situation change from one state to another? It shifts through companionship and this is what happened with the Americans in Afghanistan who spent years in the company of what became to be known as Al Qaeda. Its weapons have hit New York and it has caught up with the Russians again in Central Asia and the fallen Soviet states. It returned to the Middle East, to the same tombs and religious houses that raised it believing that it is their loyal weapon. Similarly, in Sudan, Sheikh Hassan al Turabi sought to bring the army into power only to be placed under house arrest, under which he still remains.

History is repeating itself in Iraq. Battles are raging between the followers of Sadr and extremist Sunnis who a few months ago were allies against the American government. Mosques and hasaniyas have become traps to kill according to identity.

After all this we ask to where are we heading? A lot of energy has been accumulated from disagreements and conflicts and only a small amount of energy has been kept from rational and perceptive leaders. Nobody knows how much has been consumed and how much is left, however it seems that we have a long way to go. The generals of today’s wars are old men and the soldiers are young. One of the paradoxes of today is that reason has no relation to age. I read an article from An-nahar newspaper in which the writer explained how the youth in Lebanon now only talks of migration and leaving behind the country of lunatics! That for them is the solution.

The cause of our crises is extremism and the solution to our crises may be in the hands of religious figures. If the preachers of peace do not take lead and make people aware of the dangers of sectarianism then they will face the various Tafkir wars between Islam and Christianity, Sunni and Shia, Salafi and Sufi…the list is never-ending…

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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