The Lebanese military arrested two men in an attack on Shia mourners at the funeral of a Hezbollah commander where at least two people were killed, a security source reported by Reuters said. . The funeral was held in the Lebanese town of Khaldeh for the Hezbollah commander who was killed a day earlier, Hezbollah said. According to Al Jazeera, Hezbollah claimed the killings were a planned ambush and urged security forces to restore security in the coastal city.
Lebanese media reported that the conflict resulted from a personal vendetta. A man from one of Khaldeh’s Sunni tribes was responsible for the murder of Hezbollah fighter Ali Chebli at a wedding party. The Iranian-backed group called the attack a “great aggression” and warned the government to arrest those responsible to avoid civil unrest. Reuters reports that tensions between Sunni and Shia Muslims in Khaldeh have increased, which could portend a sectarian conflict that could lead to further financial and political turmoil in Lebanon.
The old religious divide between Sunni and Shiite groups has contributed to the resurgence of tensions and conflicts in the Middle East. The origins of Sunni-Shia conflicts can be traced back to 610, when the Prophet Muhammad introduced a new monotheistic faith among the people of Mecca, known as Islam. After the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632, there was a debate within the Meccan community as to who should assume his role of authority. According to NPR, the majority of Prophet Muhammad’s supporters were in favor of the Muslim community determining who would succeed him. On the other hand, a smaller group insisted that the only legitimate ruler must be an individual from the lineage of the Prophet Muhammad. In particular, they favored Ali, who was the husband of Fatimah, the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad. On the contrary, as Gregory Gause, professor of Middle East politics at the University of Vermont, noted, “Sunnis believed that leadership should rest with whoever was considered by the elite of the community to be the best. able to lead the community ”. The Sunnis won and elected Abu Bakr, a companion of the Prophet Muhammad, to be the first caliph (head of the Muslim community) over Ali ibn Abi Talib, his cousin and son-in-law. It was this debate that basically sparked the Sunni-Shiite split.
The Sunni-Shiite conflict in Lebanon and elsewhere also stems from modern events such as the Iranian Islamic revolution in 1979, according to the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. The Shia cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had the chance to implement his vision of an Islamic government led by the tutelage of the Islamist jurist. This theory, rooted in Shiite Islam, justifies the domination of the clergy over the state. The tutelage of the Islamist jurist or “velayat-e-faqih” is opposed by Sunni Muslims, who have historically separated political power from religious authority.
As part of the revolution, Khomeini advocated for Muslim unity, but also supported Shiite groups in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq, Bahrain and Pakistan. To date, in the Arab world, Iranian-backed Shiite groups have made significant political gains. For example, Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia and political movement, is the most powerful armed group in Lebanon. This has led Iran, a predominantly Shia country, to acquire more regional influence as the Shia groups it helps in other countries gain political power. The Council on Foreign Relations says Hezbollah has defined its movements in sectarian terms and adopted anti-imperialist, anti-American and anti-Zionist ideologies as part of its platform. Hezbollah’s attacks have shifted from anti-Western and anti-Zionist motivations to those against other Muslims, such as the killing by al-Qaeda of Shia civilians in Iraq as well as their overt participation in the Syrian civil war.
According to Reuters, Sunni tribes claimed responsibility for the attack and claimed it was carried out in revenge for the murder of one of their members in Khaldeh the previous year. Lebanese military intelligence services stormed the homes of numerous suspects and arrested an individual implicated in the funeral murder, the military said. A second suspect was also arrested, specifies the security source. Hezbollah has claimed it is working to maintain peace and order, but has not been able to monitor everyone sparked by the funeral attack. “You don’t want conflicts, so come and hand these killers over to the state,” Hassan Fadlallah, a Hezbollah lawmaker, told Al Jadeed TV on Sunday (August 1).st, 2021.
Besides sectarian conflicts, Lebanon already suffers the greatest threat to its stability since its 15-year civil war from 1975 to 1990 due to the debilitating financial situation which caused the currency to fall by more than 90%. According to the World Bank, Lebanon’s economic and financial crisis is probably one of the three most serious crises in the world since the mid-19th century. After the civil war, one of Lebanon’s most reliable sources of funds was remittances from Lebanese working abroad. According to Reuters, remittances began to decline in 2011 with the rise of sectarian conflicts. Sunni Gulf states have halted aid due to Iran’s growing power in Lebanon through Hezbollah.
As reported by Reuters, Fouad Makhzoumi, an independent Sunni MP tweeted: “What happened in Khaldeh confirms the blatant absence of state logic and that the language of uncontrolled and illegitimate weapons is the prevailing one. “, He added,” we are afraid that the country will be drawn into conflicts.
The future of the Middle East and the political balance between Sunnis and Shiites, especially in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen, largely depends on resolving the Sunni-Shiite rivalry. In terms of humanitarian implications, Hezbollah’s support for the Baath government in Syria has prolonged the country’s civil war, which has forced the influx of more than four million refugees into countries like Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq. and Turkey. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the influx of more than a million Sunni-majority Syrians into Lebanon, a country that has already suffered a fifteen-year civil war, has added additional financial pressure on the government. Not to mention that the Syrian civil war could eventually lead to the redrawing of the map of the Middle East. The Assad regime controls Syria’s Mediterranean coast, Damascus and Homs, which are a rump state neighboring Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon, posing a threat to Lebanon’s territorial integrity. Not to mention that the Kurdish groups located in northern Syria have continued to defend the rights they were deprived of under the Baathist regime of Assad and are on the verge of gaining their de facto independence. Yet, that being said, while most politicians and activists in Lebanon disagree with the possibility of redrawing the map of the Middle East, they recognize that the emergence of new areas of influence based on identities and sectarian claims is a growing problem.
According to Marwan Kabalan, Al Jazeera collaborator and Syrian scholar, the main way to overcome sectarian conflicts is through state building. According to Media Line, state building helps create centralized and democratic nation states that would be more effective in upholding the rule of law. In addition, stronger democratic states would also help strengthen national identity and security, as well as the quality of public services, which can help to mitigate sectarianism. So while it is commonly believed that only religious doctrine contributes to the Sunni-Shiite divide, government, state collapse, and social media have all helped to mobilize that divide. In conclusion, the end of Iran’s aid to Shiite groups in other countries and interference with their political spheres as well as the fight against the unequal distribution of wealth in the Middle East can certainly help reduce bigotry. Sunni-Shiite and to avoid the polarization of their identities. .