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Syria: Closing mosques and launching satellite television channels - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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How ironic! The Syrian regime has managed to think up an unprecedented “reformative” step, namely the secular Baathist regime in Damascus has launched a religious satellite television channel [Nour A-Shams TV], and this is at the same time that it has forcibly closed a number of mosques, even turning some of them into military barracks.

The state Syrian Arab News Agency [SANA] issued a statement saying that this Baathist state satellite television channel will broadcast the Friday prayers sermon, in addition to various other religious programs, with the objective of establishing “a true understanding of Islam and Islamic Shariaa law.” Is there anything more ridiculous or absurd than this, namely a regime closing down mosques – which is something that not even occupational forces did – and brutally killing its own citizens, as we saw in Hama last Sunday, and then saying that it wants to establish a correct understanding of Islam and Islamic Shariaa law? What is even worse than this is a man like [Syrian religious scholar] Mohamed Said Ramadan al-Bouti – who is well versed in Islamic Shariaa law – saying that whoever wants to bring down the Bashar al-Assad regime wants “to bring down Islam.” Does Sheikh al-Bouti think that Islam accepts what has happened and is happening in Syria with regards to the brutal killing and suppression of the people? Is it acceptable for Syrian worshippers only to be allowed to enter mosques to pray after they have presented their identification cards to the authorities?

What is funny – although this results in laughter that is closer to tears – is that Bashar al-Assad’s adviser Bouthaina Shaaban is today lecturing the Syrian youth in Aleppo and calling on them to listen to those who claim that the Egyptian revolutionaries received funding from abroad, however during the Egyptian revolution she asserted that the collapse of the Mubarak regime represented the implementation of the people’s will. This is not all, for Bouthaina Shaaban is also claiming that Syria is the envy of the world! The reality is that the Syrian regime is envied only by those dictators who kill their own people and are subject to international pressure [for this], whereas the international community is being shamefully silent towards the al-Assad regime today, especially as the number of unarmed Syrian citizens killed at the hands of the regime is greater than the death-toll of Israel’s Gaza war, or Israel’s last war on Lebanon. I am not talking about verbal condemnation [of the Syrian regime], but rather the international community taking real action against the al-Assad regime via the UN Security Council. This is not to mention the shameful Arab silence on Syria – of both states and organizations – and even the Organization of the Islamic Conference [OIC] has not said a word about the attacks on the unarmed which have been prohibited by God, indeed it has not even condemned the attacks on the mosques in Syria! The Syrian regime is also envied by dictators because nobody outside of Syria issued any objection when it decided to forcibly close mosques; however the international community did not stay silent for a single day when the Mubarak regime shut down the internet and SMS text messaging.

Therefore, there is nothing surprising about the Damascus regime transgressing divine laws, closing down houses of worship, and shedding innocent blood, and then coming out to announce the launch of a religious satellite television channel to establish a “true” understanding of Islam, particularly when the Arabs are committed to their silence, and fail to object to the Syrian regime’s crimes against its people. This regime did not hesitate to fabricate one lie after another, speaking of Salafist groups, armed groups, and more. There is nothing surprising about the Damascus regime pursuing this tact so long as the international community is failing to do anything to stop the regime from carrying out such crimes. This suppressive regime is doing the impossible to remain in power, including killing innocent people, even on the first day of the holy Islamic month of Ramadan!

It is truly tragic when we see a regime killing its own people, closing mosques, and then announcing the launch of a religious satellite television channel to establish a true understanding of Islam and Islamic Shariaa law, and then going even further than this and having this venture blessed by those who claim to be men of God!

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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