Tuesday, June 19, 2012

An Islamic perspective on world events: a glance at Syria


Those who know me well know that I am a student at heart. I love learning, and strive to keep informed on the subjects of interest to me, and especially so on events in the Muslim world. This is natural, after all, Prophet Muhammad [Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam] is reported to have said that those who do not care about the affairs of Muslims is not of us. To strive to know all sides of the argument is not only common sense, it is also in keeping with the texts of the Qur'an and Sunnah. A rather comical example of the benefits of such an approach is an occasion when this writer attended the Dead Seas Scrolls exhibit. The program also included a Biblical history presentation. Anyways, a Church group was behind me, and their leader began asking me questions about the scrolls, mistaking me for a tour guide. I in turn provided the answers, me, a Muslim!

Thus, I am always surprised when people, especially Muslims, allow prejudices to get in the way of truth and justice, and blindly accept whatever is told in the media.

Syria: case in point

Without doubt, something is amiss there. The "Arab spring" inspired, in the Syrian context, both peaceful and non peaceful actions designed to show dissatisfaction with the Assad regime. This much can be agreed to by all hands.

It's obvious that Syria is a strategic piece of real estate, that it has close ties with Iran, Hezbollah and [until recently] Hamas, and that these [and other] circumstances have prompted parties both inside and outside the Middle East to insert themselves in the conflict, shaping to bend it to their own advantage. This is easy to do actually when one considers that the Assad family has been ruling Syria since 1970, and are themselves from the minority 'Alawi sect, whereas the majority of Syrians are Sunni Muslims.

When emotions and prejudices get in the picture, truth and the spirit of reconciliation of disputing parties gets sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.

Take as a perfect example a recent New York Times article [ Friday June 15th, 2011, page A15 " Syrian liberators, armed with plastic" by C.J. Chivers] showing how the opposition released a video announcing the formation of "a special forces brigade", wearing masks, banners surrounding their filming site, and armed with- get this- toy guns!  As if that wasn't bad enough, what is even more disturbing is the following paragraph from the same article

[quote] This week, The Daily Mail, a British tabloid, published photographs of a so called ghost unit, loyal to Mr Assad and accused of systematically killing Syrian civilians..Two images showed a purported member with a large semi automatic pistol. The weapon was later determined by the newspaper Al Bawaba in Jordan to be a blank-firing replica of an Israeli-made Desert Eagle pistol.[/quote]

Our main point

We have to exercise a bit of dilligence when watching TV, the news, or reading the paper. This goes for issues in Egypt, Syria, religion, politics, even lay people. We have to understand that there is, in the midst of so called black and white, much grey. We have to be fair and honest, especially in issues dealing with life and death. Muslims in particular need to learn these lessons, about each other and about Non Muslims alike. As an example, there is a wide perception that Muslims are discriminated against in the United States, but the truth is very different. Yes, there are problems, but freedom of religion is a constitutional right, and is supported by the government and local political/social culture. In fact, Muslims are more free to practice Islam here than even in areas of Dar ul Islam.

Here are some relevant Quranic verses in relation to these issues, wa Billlaahit Tawfeeq!

" O believers! When a "Faasiq" [an immoral person who breaks the normal rules of behavior] comes with any information, investigate it, lest you bring harm to a people unknowingly and become regretful afterwards." [Al-Qur'an 49:6]

" O you who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in your devotion to God, bearing witness to the truth in all equity, and never let hatred of anyone lead you into the sin of deviating from justice. Be just: this is the closest to being God-conscious. And be conscious of God, verily, God is aware of all that you do." [Qur'an 5:8, Muhammad Asad translation]