09/01/2014, 00.00
LEBANON - IRAQ - SYRIA
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Islamic State threatens coexistence even among Muslims

Jihadist militias are increasingly sectarian in their actions. Attacking shared religious symbols, like the tomb of Jonah and the shrine of Saint George in Mosul, means destroying cultural, historical and social bridges. Conflict is not only inter-confessional but is also increasingly intra-confessional within Islam, between Sunnis and Shiites.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - The crazy jihadist project, whose aim is the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East, could also bring to an end to the age-old traditional coexistence between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

The killings, rapes, and attacks by Islamist militias are in fact increasingly sectarian. In addition to Christians and other non-Muslim minorities, Muslims are affected as well, divided as they are between Sunnis and Shias.

As Mideast experts point out, it is no accident that the Islamic State has targeted and destroyed most holy places and places of worship rather than tourist attractions and archaeological sites of great historical and cultural interest.

In Iraq and throughout the Middle East, holy places have long been a place of tolerance and peaceful coexistence. They include the Tomb of the Prophet Jonah in Mosul - which Muslims sometimes revere even more than Christians - and the Shrine of Saint George, both of which were destroyed as part of the mad Islamist plan.

In order to destroy coexistence, Islamists have struck people and sites symbolising religious and cultural integration. Saint George for instance is a prophet for Muslims and a saint for Christians, a symbol of union between the two religions.

Similarly, the Lebanese branch of al Nusra, a group linked to the al-Qaeda terror network operating in Syria, has released Sunni soldiers whilst threatening to behead Shia hostages. The group said it was prepared to execute Lebanese Shia soldiers should Hizbollah actively participate in the war. At least 3,000 jihadists are actively seeking recruits in Lebanon.

The split within Islam between Sunnis and Shias is growing at the speed of the advancing army of the Islamic State, which took advantage of a power vacuum - particularly in Baghdad after the fall of Saddam Hussein - to boost its influence.

Sunni-Shia tensions are not only a serious threat locally, but could affect global peace and security. Fanning the confessional flames among Muslims also means challenging the very idea of nationhood in many Mideast countries like Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain and Yemen.

Increasingly, states and governments appear weak, with local authorities divided. As millions of displaced people flee lands they inhabited for thousands of years, one of the greatest humanitarian crises ever appears to be unfolding before our eyes.

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