From the time of the creation of the modern nation state, history has taught us that only those societies survive and enjoy security, stability and tranquility, whose people have learnt to coexist with each other and forge cohesive bonds.
When this feeling of shared identity is compromised, members of society drift apart on the basis of various sectarian and doctrinal differences. As a consequence, states begin to fail and implode leading to protracted civil wars that cause widespread bloodshed and mayhem.
The dismal situation in Syria and Iraq is the consequence of sectarian strife. It is also a living example of the decline in civility and patriotism toward the homeland, which has been replaced by fanaticism towards a particular religious denomination or sect.
It seems the Arab people have yet to grasp the importance of coexistence among citizens of a society, even if they differ on sectarian or doctrinal basis. Iraq, Syria and Yemen are currently in the throes of civil wars that cease momentarily only to start again. Unfortunately, I don’t see them ending anytime soon.
It is a historical fact that before Khomeini’s revolution in Iran, Arab societies lived in peace and harmonyMohammed Al Sheikh
Medieval Europe and sectarian wars
In Europe of the Middle Ages, sectarian and doctrinal wars were the main cause of death for millions of people. At that time, Catholics and Protestants were vying to obliterate each other through violent means.
Decades of protracted wars later, they found out that the solution to their problem lay in overcoming differences and in developing the spirit of coexistence among different peoples, irrespective of the variance in their religious persuasions.
This conviction led them to rebuild human society as we know now. They also believed that all those who indulged in sectarian violence should be condemned by law. This laid the foundations for a superior human civilization that the world enjoys today, with its benefits of progress, innovation and development in all spheres of life.
Thus, the only way for establishing security, stability and tranquility lies in our taking lessons from these experiences. In order to get rid of fanaticism and animosity among sects and ideologies we have to replace them with values of loyalty and obedience toward the homeland, which should be a state that looks after all of its citizens regardless of their sectarian or doctrinal persuasion.
Iran exploiting sectarianism
By using sectarianism to achieve its expansionist ambitions, Iran has invaded its neighboring countries, stoked the flames of fanaticism in these societies, and targeted their stability and security by raking up Shiite fanaticism. It is a historical fact that before Khomeini’s revolution in Iran, Arab societies lived in peace and harmony.
Since the advent of this clerical regime, sectarian strife among members of the same religious community, both in the Arab and Islamic countries, has increased. The ongoing sectarian conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen prove my statement.
It is important for us in the Gulf to learn the lessons of the countries of the Arab North, and to refrain from sliding into those divisions that have the potential to obliterate all we cherish and cause enormous bloodshed. The ultimate losers in such wars will of course be citizens, regardless of their sectarian affiliations.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Mohammed Al Shaikh is a Saudi writer with al-Jazirah newspaper. He tweets @alshaikhmhmd.
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