SYRIA

Renewed calls for jihad in Homs after Sunni shrine destroyed

 The mausoleum of Khalid bin al Walid, one of the Prophet’s companions, was destroyed by shelling from the Syrian army on Monday, provoking outrage in the city of Homs. Rebel fighters there are now trying to use this incident to recruit new fighters via the Internet. 

Advertising

Screen capture of a YouTube video that shows the ruins of Khalid bin al Walid's mausoleum. 

 

 

The mausoleum of Khalid bin al Walid, one of the Prophet’s companions, was destroyed by shelling from the Syrian army on Monday, provoking outrage in the city of Homs. Rebel fighters there are now trying to use this incident to recruit new fighters via the Internet.

 

Khalid bin al Walid, said to be born in 592 in Mecca, served as a general for the Prophet Mohammed and his two first caliphs, Abu Bakr and Omar. Following Mohammed’s death, he took part in the war to take back the Arabic peninsula, and notably commanded the Muslim armies during the capture of Iraq and Syria. Like Genghis Khan or Alexander the Great, his armies never lost. He is said to have died in 642 and have been buried in Homs.

 

Located in the hotly-contested neighbourhood of Khalidiya, his mausoleum was targeted by the Syrian army, which has been ramping up its attacks on the rebels in Homs over the past three weeks. Since its total destruction on Monday, rebels have used images of the mausoleum’s ruins to make renewed calls for jihad against Bashar Al Assad’s regime, via videos posted online.

 

The two following videos were posted online on July 22, the day of the mausoleum’s shelling, by opposition activists in the Khalidiya neighbourhood.

 

In this video, a rebel addresses Muslims: “What are you going to say to God now that the mausoleum of the Prophet’s companion has been destroyed?”

 

“Look at what the Shiites, these dogs, have done to Khalid bin al Walid’s mausoleum!” says the rebel in this video. “We have begged you to help us break the siege [of the army on Homs], but no one replied…”

 

The neighbourhood of Khalidiya is under the rebels’ control. For more than a year now, it has been under siege and bombarded nearly every day.

 

According to the Middle East Monitor, Assad’s troops have destroyed 780 mosques throughout Syria since the beginning of the conflict in March 2011. Churches, synagogues and religious schools have also been destroyed.

“We’ve filmed these videos to show Muslims around the world how their religion’s symbols are coming under attack”

Abu-Rami Al-Qosour is an opposition activist. He works in the Free Syrian Army’s communications bureau in Homs. He created several videos calling on Muslims to help them in their “jihad”.

 

Khalid bin al Walid’s mausoleum is a very important symbol to Muslims, in particular for Sunnis. He was one of Islam’s greatest soldiers; before the uprising, visitors from all around the Muslim world came to his tomb to pray. He’s a hero, and now his tomb has been desecrated by the regime. The mosque was shelled by Assad’s army for several days. They want to erase all trace of Sunni history and build an Alawite state [Editor’s Note: Alawism is a branch of Shiite Islam. Assad and his family are Alawite.]

Bombs have been raining down on the neighbourhood of Kalidiya for a year and two months now. We’ve filmed these videos to show the world and all Muslims how our religion’s symbols are being attacked. Khalid bin al Walid fought for Islam until his dying breath. My message to young Muslims is, don’t let him down now.

 

Abu-Rami Al-Qosour, speaking in English.

“This isn’t the best strategy, since Sunni jihadists are generally against mausoleums”

Thomas Pierret is an expert on Syria and Sunni Islam.

 

Khalid bin al Walid’s mosque had taken on a great deal of importance since the start of the conflict. It became a symbol of resistance for Sunnis in Homs. Of course, the rebels are taking advantage of this situation try to attract attention to their fight and to convince young people from other Muslim countries to come join their ranks.

However, I’m not sure that this strategy will work. The hundreds of videos of rape, torture and other atrocities perpetrated by Assad’s soldiers are much more likely to convince young men in other countries to go wage jihad in Syria than the ruins of this mosque. In addition, jihadists [who are influenced by the Salafist movement, which is a fundamentalist form of Islam] usually believe mausoleums are heretical. There are many recent examples of mausoleums being destroyed by Salafists in Libya and Tunisia.