Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Debate: The Gulf is not facing a sectarian crisis | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Skyscrapers tower along the Corniche in the Qatari capital Doha, on September 22, 2013. (AFP Photo/Al-Watan/ Karim Jaafar)

Sectarianism has many manifestations. At its most violent, it takes the form of civil war, which we have seen in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Arab world. It consumes everything and everyone and remains in the hearts of the people for generations. It is very difficult for a country to move past a civil war. Movement away from sectarianism is rooted in administrative policies and social trends, and a society that is protected from political or religious sects that would wish to harm the interests of their rivals. They are all part of one community. Any destructive action by one sect towards another is inexcusable, as are any attempts to infringe upon the right to worship as one wishes.

No matter who engages in sectarianism, whether they be politicians, preachers or civil society groups, none are capable of knowing or containing the consequences of their actions. Sectarianism is born of deep emotion and religious fervor, and surrendering oneself to these influences inevitably leads to uncontrollable conflict. The narrow-minded and short-sighted interests of politicians and opposition leaders have destroyed and continue to destroy the social fabric in already-troubled communities.

Any observer can see that sectarianism has become a large part of social polarization in the Gulf. This divide has crept in from Iraq, Syria and Lebanon via social media, which has become one of the most important tools for instigating sectarian tensions due to its availability to the masses. Moreover, religious preachers and political leaders in these countries have become tools of sectarian incitement in the region. These efforts are predominantly spearheaded by parties that want to garner sympathy for their cause, so they use religion as a means of finding support outside their homeland. It is no secret that some of these preachers and politicians have opened doors for one another, but in turn they have also opened the door to religious clashes and feuds. These struggles are of a political nature and thus cannot be overcome through cycles of violence and revenge. They can only be overcome through a political consensus that upholds justice and human dignity.

The flow of mujahideen from the Gulf to religious wars in Iraq and Syria is merely the result of religious incitement and political agitation. These factors, along with financing from within the region, have managed to push some of the region’s youth to engage in political conflicts under the banner of jihad. The flow of our youth to foreign wars will have grave unforeseen consequences.

We must not forget the role that satellite broadcasters and their financers have played in this campaign of sectarian agitation. Local television stations have indoctrinated sectarianism in much of the Levant, to say nothing of the complicity of some satellite preachers. Some see their comments as straddling a fine line between calling for protests and openly advocating suicide attacks in war-torn countries.

In general, these sectarian conflicts are conflicts between religion and politics, despite the tendency to dress up political conflicts in religious language. Part of the resolution to this sectarian conflict is the removal of the conflict from a religious environment. It must be approached through political agreement, and the people must be guaranteed in their political and social rights regardless of religion, ethnicity, gender, color or origin.

The counterpoint to this article can be read here.