Hezbollah exploits religion to intervene in Syria, says Shiite cleric

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Lebanese Shiite party Hezbollah is exploiting religion to pursue its political agendas in Syria, a high-ranking Lebanese Shiite cleric told Al Arabiya in an interview on Saturday.

Ali Al-Amin, who was the former mufti of the city of Tyre and Mount Amil in southern Lebanon, criticized Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah for urging Shiites to head to Syria to defend the holy shrine of Sayyida Zainab.

Sayyida Zainab was the Prophet Muhammad’s granddaughter and her golden-domed tomb is considered to be one of Shiite Islam’s holiest sites.

Defending the shrine is not a “legitimate justification” to intervene in Syria, Amin said, adding that Shiite jihad should be in the homeland and not in the conflict-ravaged neighboring country.

“Our jihad is in Lebanon and that is to build our country amid national unity.”

At least 80,000 people having been killed since the start of the two-year Syrian conflict that started as a protest against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime but morphed into a civil war.

The conflict has polarized Lebanon between supporters and proponents of Assad’s regime, especially between Sunni and Shiite Lebanese.

Reports have indicated that Hezbollah fighters were fighting alongside Syrian forces against rebels in Shiite villages near the Lebanese border.

Earlier this month, Nasrallah made a strong indication that his group was ready to get more substantially involved in the neighboring country when he said that Syria’s friends would not let the Syrian regime fall.

“Syria has true friends in the region who will not allow Syria to fall into the hands of the United States, Israel and ‘takfiri’ groups,” he said, referring to Sunni Muslims fighting to overthrow Assad.

Meanwhile, Salafists in Lebanon expressed anger over the international community’s inaction to support the Syrian people’s struggle against Assad regime.

The Lebanese Salafits’ tone sharpened when they called for jihad in Syria against Damascus.

Al-Amin slammed the Salafists’ call for jihad as “sectarian.”