Islamic head warns of sectarian rift in Syria

Islamic head warns of sectarian rift in Syria

Islamic head warns of sectarian rift in Syria

Organization of Islamic Cooperation General-Secretary Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu warns of a sectarian spillover from Syria, which he says may take decades to remedy.

The rise in Islamist militancy and sectarian fighting in Syria could lead to regional consequences that could take “decades to remedy,” the head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said yesterday.

“The OIC has cautioned on many occasions about the danger of sectarian violence in Syria. Such a conflict, once it takes on a sectarian dimension, is bound to destabilize the entire region,” OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu said in an interview with the Al-Arabiya website.

Analysts warn that the foray into Syria’s civil war by Lebanon’s Hezbollah has fueled a Sunni-Shiite polarization that threatens to feed extremism on both sides and export the conflict to the wider region. 

“Under such a terrible scenario, the region will face catastrophic consequences that may take decades to remedy,” İhsanoğlu said. The OIC chief said last week that he sees a no-fly zone in Syria as a step toward providing the conditions for a negotiated end to the crisis. İhsanoğlu defended the suspension of Syria’s OIC membership since August 2012 due to increasing violence in the country.

‘Dissipate differences’

“The suspension of Syria’s membership in the OIC was decided after a long series of initiatives to resolve the conflict peacefully. In fact, the Syrian regime never responded positively to our genuine endeavors in this regard,” İhsanoğlu said.

He urged Islamic states embroiled in the Syrian crisis to dispel their differences over the conflict. The civil war has been increasingly drawing in nations across the Middle East, pitting Muslim states against other Muslim states, he said.

“Our member states are urged to coordinate closely to dissipate their differences and articulate a common position vis-a-vis the Syrian crisis by exerting pressure on the regime in Damascus to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the opposition in order to find a peaceful way out of the bloody crisis,” he added.

Over the upcoming peace conference, İhsanoğlu said the Islamic body would play an important role. 

“As for the upcoming Geneva II meeting, our member states are aware that this is perhaps a unique opportunity to tap before the situation in [Syria] flies into an unmanageable conflagration with dire ramifications for the whole region and beyond.”

Islamist ‘executed’ 15-year-old boy

ALEPPO - Reuters

Members of an al Qaeda-linked Islamist group in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo executed a 15-year-old boy in front of his parents on June 9 as punishment for what the group regarded as a heretical comment, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Mohammad Qataa was shot in the face and neck a day after being seized, said the pro-opposition monitoring group, which uses a network of observers across Syria. 

The Observatory said Qataa, who was a street vendor selling coffee in the working-class Shaar neighborhood, had been arguing with someone when he was overheard saying: “Even if the Prophet Mohammad comes down (from heaven), I will not become a believer.” The gunmen, who belong to al-Nusra Front, took Qatta on June 8 and brought him back alive in the early hours of June 9 to his wooden stand, with whiplash marks visible on his body and fired two bullets from an automatic rifle in view of the crowd and in front of the boy’s mother and father, the report said.