Sunni Silence on Shi’a Persecution is Not Okay

Sunni Silence on Shi’a Persecution is Not Okay

It has been a devastating few weeks, with Daesh led violence claiming the lives of hundreds around the world. Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh all have seen growing death tolls as the so-called “Islamic State” propogates its vehemently un-Islamic ideology through violence and death. Iraq in particular has felt the brutality of Daesh’s attacks, with a death toll beyond 300 and still rising, after the car bombing of a busy Karrada mall as families were preparing for Eid al-Fitr.

It is important to remember that targeting Karrada, a predominantly Shi’a neighborhood of Baghdad, aligns with Daesh’s ideology of vitriolic hatred for Shi’a Muslims.

It is important to remember that targeting Karrada, a predominantly Shi’a neighborhood of Baghdad, aligns with Daesh’s ideology of vitriolic hatred for Shi’a Muslims. tweet

Daesh’s agenda to attack and brutalize Shi’a Iraqis out of existence continued on July 8 when the mausoleum of Imam Ali al-Hadi’s (10th of the 12 Rightly Guided Imams, and a venerated figure in Shi’a tradition) son was targeted in the city of Balad by multiple suicide attackers, heavy artillery, and mortars. Often referred to as the Sayed Mohammad shrine, it is a revered place of worship for Shi’a Muslims in Iraq.

It was reported that one suicide bomber detonated outside the entrance, while another detonated as worshippers were fleeing. Over 50 innocent civilians were killed, with many others wounded. The self-proclaimed Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.

While Shi’a Iraqis were faced with two consecutive targeted and deadly attacks just days apart, selective mourning by the rest of the Muslim world has been a point of concern.

The bombing in Baghdad was, for good reason, used as a platform to denounce the so-called Islamic State as anything but Islamic, and rightfully so. It is a lack of distinction from the larger issue of Shi’a persecution, followed by the deafening silence in response to the recent attack in Balad, that foster a growing frustration within the Shia community.

 It is a lack of distinction from the larger issue of Shi’a persecution, followed by the deafening silence in response to the recent attack in Balad, that foster a growing frustration within the Shia community. tweet

When it comes to the constant violence and antagonism that is brushed aside by majority Sunni Muslim communities, Shi’a Muslims are getting increasingly fed up. And rightfully so.

Here’s the ugly truth: Shi’a Muslim pain is worthy of discussion in the Sunni community only when it can serve as a narrative condemning Daesh; that is, that Daesh is a threat to all, including Muslims.

Here’s the ugly truth: The pain of Shi’a Muslims is worthy of discussion in the Sunni community only when it can serve as a narrative condemning Daesh; that is, that Daesh is a threat to all, including Muslims. tweet

Sunni-majority sources may look at terrorist attacks in which the casualties are overwhelmingly Shi’a and say “See? Daesh kills Muslims too,” without acknowledging the systematic targeting of Shi’a populations.

Much of the marginalization of Shi’a Muslims – in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Nigeria, and other countries around the world – is barely given a thought, let alone public outcry or condemnation from Sunni majority leadership.

When a suicide attack occurred outside of the Prophet’s mosque in Medina on the heels of the Karrada attack in Baghdad, the narrative shifted quickly.  This happened after Shi’a mosques were targeted with suicide attacks in Qatif, a majority Shi’a area, literally only hours before bombs sounded outside the Prophet’s mosque.  The narrative immediately shifted to Medina’s bombing, as Baghdad and Qatif – Shia targeted bombings – faded out.

All of this feeds into what we see so often after Shi’a targeted killing:  The unwillingness of the Sunni majority to speak out against the second-class treatment of their brothers and sisters in faith.

Am I trying to be selective? Not at all. Muslim lives are being lost daily to the horrors and atrocities of the self-proclaimed Islamic State.  This distinction is necessary because of how the Shi’a minority have been historically persecuted by zealots and extremists with similar ideology, long before Daesh came in to being.

Perhaps what makes this distinction all the more necessary is that extremists like Daesh aren’t the only ones who oppress Shi’a Muslims. Governments of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and Bahrain both explicitly and implicitly allow the targeting of Shia populations. This being normative does not make it okay, by any means. tweet

Perhaps what makes this distinction all the more necessary is that extremists like Daesh aren’t the only ones who oppress Shi’a Muslims. Governments of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and Bahrain both explicitly and implicitly allow the targeting of Shia populations. This being normative does not make it okay, by any means.

If anything, it means we as a community need to work exponentially harder to address the persecution and discrimination of minority-Muslim populations in the Ummah, and be just as outraged when violence occurs against them as we are when violence occurs against majority populations.

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