When the influential cleric Yusuf al Qaradawi recently called on fellow Sunni Muslims to join the rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, he effectively called for the Sunni-Shia conflict in the Middle East to escalate in some countries and start anew in others.
Qaradawi said he was not demonizing all Shia Muslims — but that is precisely the effect of his inflammatory words. He denounced al-Assad’s Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam, as “more infidel than Christians and Jews.” signaling a broader demonization of all Shia. He also said the Lebanese Shia militia Hezbollah (whose name means “the party of God”) is really “the party of the devil.”
“How could 100 million Shia (worldwide) defeat 1.7 billion (Sunnis)?” Qaradawi asked, speaking May 31 in Doha, Qatar, about the two largest Muslim sects. “Only because they (Sunni) are weak,” he said, attempting to inspire the Sunnis to go to Syria to fight against al-Assad and prove their strength.
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This op-ed first appeared at CNN.com on June 7, 2013.
Photo courtesy Voice of America via flickr