By Hani Hamdan, Engage Minnesota
Mosques inside the United Stated, including Minnesota mosques, are receiving extra news coverage as of late in connection with a few Muslims deciding to travel to Syria to fight against the Syrian Baathist regime of Bashar Al Assad. The news coverage includes what’s being done by Muslims and their law enforcement partners in curbing recruiting, charges being brought, details about recruits and their journeys, and sometimes negative connotations about mosques themselves, such as Fox 9’s recurring disingenuous depiction of mosques as being places for terror incitement.
Something, however, is being completely overlooked here, and it’s not exactly a subtle thing. In fact, it’s the single most important piece of the story: Bashar Al Assad’s regime’s continuing atrocities against Syrian Muslims.
While Western media seems to have lost track of the story of the Syrian revolution, that story is still very clear and simple: Syrians were living in a North Korea-like oppressive regime against which they admirably revolted peacefully in 2011 for several months. The regime responded with the kind of fierce horror only heard of in medieval times, so the revolution had no choice but to resort to arms. That’s the story a few years ago and the same regime is carrying out the exact same atrocities now, only with less international scrutiny and virtually no meaningful opposition aside from rebel forces.
Sure – these rebel forces have many extremists in their midst. But while most people conveniently chose to turn a blind eye to the conflict by adopting the cliche “all sides are bad” and “it’s just a heaping mess over there”, people of conscience never lost sight of the root cause of the problem: Muslims in Syria are, right now, being savagely massacred principally by the Assad regime, and a country whose majority population used to be Sunni Muslims is now being systematically ethnically cleansed. The regime is succeeding in actually changing the population composition under virtual silence from Western powers, and the Obama administration has just renewed its refusal to impose a no-fly zone over Syria, effectively giving permission to the Assad regime to continue bombing civilians with Scud missiles and barrel bombs.
So you can turn away from this ongoing spectacle all you want. However, concerned Muslims and other people of conscience are keenly in tune with what’s happening on the ground in Syria. We see the beheaded babies. We read the stories of girls raped in front of their families before being killed. We see the photos of the bodies shredded apart by barrel bombs. We keep an eye on the statistics and the situation of refugees. We know the carnage is neither stopping nor getting better. And although ISIS has succeeded in diffusing international support for Syrians, there are still people out there who do not fall for the logical fallacy of “ISIS is bad, so let’s keep Assad in power”. Assad and ISIS are two faces of the same coin, but without a doubt, there is no remote comparison between the amount of blood on the hands of Assad’s regime and the hands of all other rebel groups combined. It is this regime that must be stopped if there will ever be a meaningful resolution to the conflict.
Therefore, no – mosques are not to blame here. All mosques can do is to educate their members and report suspicious activity, which they have been performing very well. But even if all mosques suddenly disappear from the United States, no one can stop a few rash individuals from following their youthful impulse in order to help a people so horrifically abused and so brazenly neglected as the Syrians. I’m proud that, while everyone has turned their backs to such a human catastrophe, we Muslims are among the few who still care. You can help, too, by reading more about the conflict and helping out with whatever you can. Here’s a good link: