Thursday, February 19, 2015

Syria: Let Us Be Steered Towards Mercy

February 2 marked the 33rd anniversary of the Hama Massacre, which took place in the city of Hama, Syria in 1982. A year earlier, in April 1981, Syrian security forces randomly executed 350 residents of the city, who were chosen among the male population over the age of 14. This event caused the majority of people in this area to turn against the Ba’athist, socialist government.

“Back then, the city of Hama was the stronghold of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood and the center of an anti-regime uprising that had been targeting government buildings and minority Alawite military officers for years,” wrote Azmat Khan for PBS.

“In 1982, the regime basically said, ‘That’s it. That’s enough. We have to deal with this once and for all. We have to show that we’re in control,'” David Lesch told FRONTLINE.

Hafez al Assad, then president of Syria, sent the army to lay siege upon the population for 27 days, during which 45,000 people were killed. About 1,000 Syrian soldiers were also killed during the operation. Large parts of the old city were destroyed.

“Assad's troops pounded Hama with artillery fire for several days and, with the city in ruins, his bulldozers moved in and flattened neighbourhoods,” reported the Guardian. Syrian forces, flown in by helicopter, searched the rubble in order to kill any remaining rebels.

This was one of "the single deadliest acts by any Arab government against its own people in the modern Middle East."

My friend described the situation there in the 80s, which was very similar to what is going on today. The people were demonstrating against the Assad regime and the Syrian government opened fire on them. As a result, some people started firing back. Secret police came to his home looking for his brother, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Finding him not at home, they killed two brothers and a sister. They shot his sister in the stomach so many times that her body was in two pieces. I am a moderate person by nature and I try to see all sides. I understand some people’s fear of Islamism due to its predictable excesses and even the desire for secularism. However, if this government represents them, then I cannot agree. Because any government that comes into someone’s home and shoots a family down is pure evil.

A Syrian ex-patriot gave Voice of America many gruesome examples of atrocities.

A wealthy old woman lived in a beautiful mansion with her son. “After the soldiers looted the house they poured gasoline on both of them and burned the house.”

“And in the same neighborhood, two buildings down the street, a family owned a place for wood chipping. They took the whole family down and they shot them all.  About 25 of them.”

Another woman had “many gold bracelets on her wrists, so they cut off both of her hands and let her bleed to die.”

She quickly followed up with another story about a father who was pleading with a  soldier.
“I have a 14-month-old baby,” the man said. “Please don’t make him an orphan.”

The officer said, “Oh, you don’t want him to be an orphan?

“Now your son won’t be an orphan,” the officer said.  Then he shot dead the child, the father and the rest of his family.

She said she learned about what happened to this family from a soldier, who defected from the army. He said, “I’m not going to be with an army like that.”

In a suburb of the city called New Hama, soldiers stood in the street while an officer used a bullhorn to call residents out of their homes.

“You all come down to the street.  Women, children, everybody,” the voice announced… And after that they went and raided the homes and whoever stayed in there they took them out and they dug a big ditch and shot them and threw them in the big ditch. They say in the neighborhood about 1500 people got shot.”

This actually reminds me of Dachau, Germany, where I took a tour of the concentration camp. While the “gas chambers” story never happened, at least not in Dachau, unwanted persons were told to dig a ditch, then lined up and shot. The Hollywood version of the Holocaust is a fabrication, but the behavior of socialist governments, whether of the Nazis or Assad’s tyranny, draws many parallels.

The problem resides in the ego-based concept of “unwanted persons.” Once a person becomes “unwanted,” almost anything can be justified against him, even in the name of religion. Those of us who desire to attain spiritual excellence need to learn to temper this particular passion. Like all passions, this destructive desire serves only to swerve away from the Middle Path towards the gutter. Whatever we do in life, we need to ask our Creator for personal permission first. Even when we eat a meal involving an animal who gave its life, we say grace first.

There was a moment when Hazrat Ali (ra) was dueling with an opponent, and he had got him beat to the ground. However the man spit at Ali. It was such an offensive moment that Ali let the man go free because if he had killed him now, which he could have easily done, it would have been committed in an act of anger, which Ali knew could send himself straight to the hellfire.

Muslims need to know that even in war, every act of mercy could go recorded for generations. Laura Ingalls, author of “Little House on the Prairie,” married a farmer named Almanzo. His name dates back to the Crusades, when his ancestor’s life was spared by a man who was in the position to kill him, named Al-Mansour. The Wilder family thenceforth dedicated one male in each generation to be named after this true Muslim. Laura and Almanzo’s daughter Rose Wilder later wrote some of the most beautiful statements about Islamic culture that have ever been written.

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