Debates have taken place around the world about the crimes committed in Syria, the most worrying of which was the death and injury of thousands due to the use of chemical weapons last month. What distinguishes these debates, even as people condemn the massacres and call for deterrents, is that there appears to be a disregard for the individual affected and their worth as human beings; cold political calculations and "interests" take precedence.
There are those who deny that such massacres have taken place or blame the victims. There are also those who believe that such crimes are permissible, even required, and that the victims either do not deserve to live or that sacrificing them "is a price worth paying", as the then US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said about the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children as a result of international sanctions. Yet others, including a majority in the region, believe that the Syrian massacres are heinous but regard the cost of addressing them as unbearable and so they ignore the issue for security reasons. For some parties, what is happening in Syria serves a purpose, just as the Iraq-Iran war served international objectives in the past.
When so-called extremist forces clash, they enter the trap prepared for them. This is usually accompanied by mocking by people like former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who said that both sides fighting in Syria believe in Allah, so they should let Allah settle their dispute.
What all of these groups agree on is that massacres have been committed in Syria on a daily basis for the past two and a half years and that the country is being systematically destroyed. They also know, for certain, who the main offender is. This also rings true for the regime's supporters, whose media goes into overdrive when a small incident occurs in one of their areas of control. They also hold grand funerals for their dead, while they do not care about the tens of thousands of victims in other places. If the regime honestly believes that the "Takfirist groups" are responsible for all of this destruction and killing, as it claims, then the least it would do is express sorrow and grief over the fate of all of the victims and regret over the destruction of the country. However, regime speeches reflect heartlessness and disregard for the fate of those killed, displaced and tortured; as such, the regime stands convicted on the basis of their words and actions as well as their implied admission that they are responsible for these crimes.
In light of this almost unanimous admission of the atrocities occurring in Syria, how is it possible for these positions to be conflicting and for reactions to massacres to become subject to a point of view? How can positions range from inability and indifference on one hand and total satisfaction and asking for more on the other? Have people's hearts died and have they turned into monsters? Has their insight been blinded after their sight has also been blinded?
Moreover, this catastrophe is an Arab-Muslim catastrophe; it is a humanitarian and civilisational disaster because the Syrian people are being annihilated and displaced, the nation is being torn apart and the country is being destroyed; what's more, it is spilling over into its neighbours. But more than that and above it all, this is a moral catastrophe, because this is the only place where people are applauding the annihilation, murder and massacres, and many more are rushing to participate.
In the past, we became accustomed to the indifference regarding events in our region dictated by people from afar; that's understandable, because those who are closer have a greater responsibility. However, the sad thing now is that those who are further away show for more compassion than those who are close to the events. With the exception of Russia, a country that lives largely in the past, most people and countries have condemned the massacres, denounced the perpetrators and disowned the criminals. Across the region, though, there are many who do not see these acts as evil; they do not blink an eye at the slaughter of children in front of their mothers, nor are they concerned with the destruction of houses with the occupants still inside; or the bombing of schools inhabited by refugees who have fled their homes due to earlier bombings that do not distinguish between the innocent and the guilty. Most of them do not care that children are tortured or that throats are slit; that executions are carried out at checkpoints; that there are hundreds of thousands of brutal detention camps that are visions of hell, which many of us fear due to our silence in the face of such atrocities.
What is happening in Syria is not exceptional, as there is also a suspicious silence on the parts of Arabs regarding the random killings of innocent people by means of criminal bombings that do not even spare the mosques of Allah in Iraq. There have been no qualms about killing people while they were prostrating and worshipping their Creator. The same was done in Cairo, as people carrying out their daily prayers were killed by people who wouldn't have dared to harm a rabid dog if it were taking shelter near the walls of the US Embassy. However, they dared to do so to the Houses of God, which they continue to violate, even though Allah is stronger than America and more just. Those who have challenged Him and violated His servants should be extremely cautious and ponder over the retribution to come.
My conclusion is that this nation has been blinded and misguided, even when compared to those who do not believe in Allah and the Day of Judgment. Most of the people of the world condemn such atrocities, regardless of who commits them, as there is no justification for the killing of innocent children and the displacement of innocent individuals, even in legitimate wars. There are rules of war agreed by the world since the Geneva Conventions and enhanced by United Nations resolutions. Even before this, such guidance was embodied in the values and teachings of Islam; the Prophet's great friend and first of his successors (peace and blessings be upon him), Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) once gave a very famous command to the Muslim army heading to the Levant: "Do not betray, do not deceive, do not bludgeon or maim, and do not kill a child, a or an old man. Do not submerge or cut down a palm tree, do not cut down a blossoming tree, and do not kill a sheep or camel, except for the purpose of eating it." Such great commands have been shunned in today's Levant.
When we are the only nation in the world that produces people who believe that the denouncement of such values is subjective as a point of view, doesn't that mean we are a failing nation? There is no point in going to mosques and reciting the Qur'an, and carrying the Holy Book "like a donkey carrying a load", as said about our ancestors, who have also been said to "have hardened hearts, like stone or harder". Before this, Jesus (peace be upon him) said about false prophets, "You will know them by their fruits," which is exactly what was said in the Qur'an: "Tell them (O Muhammad) if indeed you are believers, yours is a strange Faith that enjoins you to do such evil things."
Why are we the only nation in the world in which there are widespread incidents of bombing mosques, killing women and children, and destroying their homes with their own hands? Isn't this evidence that we are a destructive nation that deserves to be destroyed? Why are we the only nation that waits for foreigners to apprehend our criminals and support our innocents, and when this occurs, we yell "colonialism has come!"?
We have reached a point worse than colonialism; a complete moral failure. We are not only disregarding our values and our heritage which taught the rest of the world the values of dealing with others, to the extent that individuals such as Saladin, who was not the best of us, has become a symbol for the West for humane dealings with his enemies, but we are also on the verge of disregarding our own humanity. We are a nation racing to commit the most sins and atrocities, which is contrary to the Qur'anic command that we should "compete with each other in doing good". Instead of stopping the hands of the oppressor, whether in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, etc., we are racing to fund terrorist criminals, coup leaders and those committing massacres; and our criminals scramble to defend what is indefensible, while everyone stands by silently. Moreover, even when we condemn, we beg others to intervene and protects us from ourselves. Isn't it shameful that the US and its allies are the ones defending the innocent people of Syria while the Arabs and many of their Muslim neighbours watch silently and many were actually involved in the crimes? Isn't it a disgrace that the African Union and the European Union are the ones who condemned the coup and massacres in Egypt, while the Arab League acquiesced? Isn't it a disaster that Iraq is destroying itself and has been committing suicide for years, while the rest of the Arabs are busy with other things I do not want to go into at the moment? Isn't it woeful that Palestine has not only been forgotten, but is being subjected to a brutal siege at the hands of those who falsely claim to associate themselves with humanity?
A while back, Malek Bennabi spoke of the "coloniability" of some nations, to which I would add, "and those who deserve such a fate".
The author is Reader in Politics and coordinator of the Democracy and Islam Programme at the Centre for the Study of Democracy, Westminster University. This article is a translation from the Arabic which appeared in Al Quds Al Arabi on 9 September 2013
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.