WASHINGTON, September 9, 2013 — This week a broad coalition of the top US based Shiite Muslim organizations issued a “Joint Statement on Syria” voicing opposition to a military intervention in Syria. The statement reads in part “We believe in a non-violent solution to the crisis at hand, and support the efforts of international leaders to resolve this issue through diplomacy and dialogue, rather than through violence or other military action.
“We call for an immediate ceasefire by all parties involved under the auspices of the United Nations, and the preparation for a transitional government that represents the will of the Syrian people.”
The statement issued by the groups matches the words of other religious leaders. Last week, Pope Francis called for a peaceful resolution to the Syrian crisis, stating he was against war. At a recent vigil for Syria, the Pope was joined by various Muslim groups also in support of a peaceful resolution.
This week’s statement was signed by Shiite mosques from coast to coast, like New Jersey’s Muslim Foundation, Inc. (MFI), Chicago’s Baitul Ilm Academy, and California’s Islamic Education Center of Orange County (IECOC).
In an attempt to offer more than moral reasoning, the group of Shiites asserted that the proposed military strikes would be detrimental to American interests by harming prospects in the region.
“We hold that a military intervention in Syria does not serve the national security interests of the United States. Past military intervention in such conflicts has proven to generate increased extremist recruitment along with attacks against the United States and its allies.”
This statement is bolstered by an “Appendix” of quotes from Republican and Democrat lawmakers opposed to President Obama’s plans for military action.
Political pundits have mistakenly implied that Shiite Muslims inside and outside Syria side with Bashar al-Assad, however UMAA Advocacy Director Ali Tehrani seeks to correct the misnomer. “While many have asserted that Shia Muslims support Assad’s regime, the truth is far from that. We unambiguously stand with the people of Syria, who have suffered enormously in the midst of this civil war.
“We make no distinction between Sunnis, Shias, Christians, Druze, or Alawites, all of whom are undergoing horrendous calamities at the hands of two warring sides.
“Let us be clear, we vehemently oppose the abhorrent and criminal actions of Assad and his regime. At the same time, we must also acknowledge that the vast majority of rebel forces exhibiting control over areas within Syria are clearly affiliated with Al-Qaeda and other extremist groups.
“These rebels also commit heinous acts against civilians. The joint statement shows that the Shia Muslim community is opposed to both the Assad regime and the rebels.”
Shiite Muslims have become increasingly focused on the crisis in Syria as the country is home to numerous ancient Islamic sites. Rebel groups, such as the Al Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front, have declared the sites heretical, and have announced plans to attack and destroy them.
The list of signatories is as follows:
- Baitul Ilm, Chicago, IL
- Council of Shia Muslim Scholars in North America (CSMNA)
- House of Wisdom, Dearborn, MI
- Imamia Medics International (IMI)
- Islamic Education Center of Orange County, CA (IECOC)
- Islamic Information Center (IIC)
- Imam Khoei Center, NY
- Muslims for Peace (MFP)
- Muslim Foundation, Inc., NJ (MFI)
- Organization of North American Shia Ithnasheri Muslim Communities (NASIMCO)
- Shia Association of North America (SANA)
- Shia International
- Shia Rights Watch
- Souls March
- Universal Muslim Association of America (UMAA)
Over the summer, Sunni and Shiite Muslims formed a working group on Syria, firmly committing to avoid sectarian overtones in the ongoing Syrian crisis.
Last week, following the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and CSMNA conventions, American based Sunni and Shiite scholars signed “The Washington Declaration” pledging to work closely together, quashing the rhetoric of “Sunni – Shia” rivalry.
Bolstering support for a negotiated solution, Secretary Kerry, Russia, and Syria seem to be analyzing a plan for international monitoring of its chemical weapons. The White House has expressed positive sentiments to the proposal, which some say may avert deadlock on the issue.
Disclaimer: The author of this article is affiliated with UMAA and IIC.
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