Lebanon Car-Bombings Latest Sign of Middle East’s Deepening Hatreds

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STRINGER / AFP / Getty Images

Lebanese citizens stand in front of a severely damaged building as they gather outside al-Salam mosque, near the house of former Lebanese police chief Ashraf Rifi, at the site of a powerful explosion in the Tripoli, Lebanon, on Aug. 23, 2013.

On Aug. 23, Muslims in Lebanon’s majority Sunni city of Tripoli congregated as usual for Friday prayers. But just as the prayers ended, an enormous blast hit the al-Taqwa mosque in Abu Ali Square. Just a few minutes later, a huge explosion ripped through the wall of the al-Salam mosque in the Mina area of the city. With at least 42 people dead and more than 400 injured, groups of angry men sporting AK-47 rifles took to the streets and fired in the air while others threw rocks at nearby Lebanese soldiers.

The incident follows a week after a car-bomb detonated in a Shiite-dominated neighborhood in southern Beirut, an echo, it seemed, of the volatile, ugly sectarian hatreds that are shaping the brutal civil war in neighboring Syria. For months, the northern city of Tripoli has seen gun battles between local Sunni militias and Lebanese troops. Elsewhere, fighters belonging to the powerful Lebanese Shiite organization Hizballah have flocked to the banner of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad, who himself is an Alawite (a sub-sect of Shiite Islam) and faces a rebellion that is dominated by Sunni militias and backed by Sunni monarchies in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.

The turmoil that has gripped parts of the Arab world since the hopeful democratic uprisings of 2011 has been characterized by an uptick in religious tensions. A report published by the Pew Research Center on June 20 said that the Arab Spring had added to restrictions on religion, with “pronounced increases in social hostilities involving religion” since 2011. Experts have suggested that the cause of this is the political instability that the revolutions have brought to the region.

Prior to the Arab Spring, corrupt, authoritarian rulers may have governed many Arab states, but these states were also fairly stable. “Living under an autocratic ruler in Syria meant that the Syria you wake up to every morning will be the same as the Syria you went to bed in,” says Aaron Reese, deputy research director at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington. “When you disrupt the state as a source of identity, then people become unsettled and they are going to turn to other identities to seek a stable community of support.”

This leads to a politicization of religious identity. While Lebanon, which went through its own grinding, sectarian civil war, has a political system shaped by confessional divisions, authoritarian regimes in Syria and Egypt preached a secularist Arab nationalism that seemed to supersede religion. The tumult of the Arab Spring created political vacuums that unleashed underlying hostilities, exposing how fragile and sometimes cynical the existing political arrangements had been in some of these countries. Nowhere is this more acute than in Syria, where the initial bloody crackdowns launched by the Assad regime, critics say, exacerbated sectarian divisions, polarized the conflict and led to the emergence within the rebellion of a radical extremist wing that has made the West deeply wary of intervening.

Meanwhile, the rise of political Islam in fledgling Arab Spring democracies has created a new set of concerns, with secularists and religious minorities fearful of new restrictive laws. In Egypt, the military-backed government’s recent crackdown on Islamist protests allegedly spawned a backlash against the country’s Coptic Christians, with a number of Coptic churches attacked and burned. In Iraq, the terror attacks and bombings continue on a near daily basis, with July ranking as one of the country’s bloodiest months in half a decade. Sifting through the wreckage, from Tripoli to Cairo, it’s hard to see when or how the violence will stop.

38 comments
Ronnie_Matrix
Ronnie_Matrix

@TIME @TIMEWorld Tough political and security situation in the Middle East. Watch out for the upcoming developments from that region.

SharafatAli
SharafatAli

You morons, It is not Sectarian hatred, It is US policies which are exploiting Sunnis and Shiats.
Go to Hell.

ConnieVanWyk
ConnieVanWyk

@TIME There is ONE true God and he is not the one promoting hatred and murder... He is a lover of Truth and the Maker of Peace!

ConnieVanWyk
ConnieVanWyk

@TIME The true creator God promotes Love & Peace... the gods of this world promotes self-love hatred murder & war & hate all forms of peace

FerasAyoub
FerasAyoub

@TIME there are no sectarian hatreds inside Lebanon. These are terrorist bombings aiming to ignite sectarian wars

Beirutspring
Beirutspring

@jabed unfortunately not without precedents from Time… thanks for tip

maghrikamal
maghrikamal

.@TIME it's not "hatred"...someone has to come with inspiring ideas. . May be an arab Nelson Mandela...or may be a "siecle des lumierres"

spot60spot
spot60spot

@TIME The deep hatred has always been there, the only change now is they are acting on that hatred.

Ersin_Se
Ersin_Se

@TIME we need to think about why all is happening at the same time:Egypt,turkey,syria,Lebanon,who is next:Iran?(Libya,irak,Afghanistan done)

superfares
superfares

It's a regional conflict & will never stop @TIME: The recent car bombings in Lebanon are the latest sign of the ME deepening hatreds.

ark
ark

Why Arabs and Muslims in general would not do the same to destroy they worse anemy Israel and America. They do not want it or because of lack of the funds for it. Neither one. They cannot do it for very simple reason: people in civil countries do not kill each other 

MohammadIzzaterd
MohammadIzzaterd

Muslims slaughtering Muslims, what's not to like for infidels?  If the Muslims are busy killing each other, they have less time to plot to kill infidels like you and me.  It's a good thing!  for infidels!

AhmadW.Ayase
AhmadW.Ayase

lol, inner hatred? are you really  a journalist that knows what went on in lebanon? this is what israel and the US have been funding, you've been pushing that for so long to happen, you wanted Lebanon and Syria to fall, there is and there was no hatred, anyone could have those two attacks, I would pay an american mercenary to do it to fuel a civil war, this what you've been doing for centuries.

arvay
arvay

This is being stoked by our Saudi "ally." If any place needs some US drone missiles delivered, it's the saudi Royal Palace. 

TomSorensen
TomSorensen

pull all western's out and nuke all those rag heads

spot60spot
spot60spot

@TIME @TIMEWorld The Middle East is a lost cause, been like this for millennia. The west needs to protect itself from that hatred.

lawhawk
lawhawk

.@TIME .@TIMEWorld nope. Not deepening hatred. Just more if the same hatred with modern means of carnage

ConnieVanWyk
ConnieVanWyk

@FerasAyoub Our fight is not against flesh&blood! True Faith bring understanding of the deeper things of life that we can KNOW the true God

ricardo_lion
ricardo_lion

@AhmadW.Ayase Don't be ridiculous.  Arabs kill Arabs and minorities all over the judenrein Arab world.  Muslim Arabs killed 300,000 black Christians in Darfur.  You even kill your own daughters and sisters for "honour", you savages.  Nothing to do with Israel (0,00000000....1% of the ME, 20% of Palestine).  

ark
ark

@AhmadW.Ayase Why Arabs and Muslims in general, can not do the same to destroy Israel or America. They cannot, not because they do not  want, not because they do not have funds for this. They cannot because people in civil countries do not kill each other. 

AhmadW.Ayase
AhmadW.Ayase

@spot60spot @TIME @TIMEWorld been  this since the US and israeli occupation, lebanon is the israeli occupation's  worst enemy, this is the hand of your foreign policy.

lamano
lamano

@junkroyalty @TIME @TIMEWorld the more the arabs kill each other, the less they kill u.s. and israelis.  let's hope the killing goes on for another 1000 years

lamano
lamano

@EricBurrows @1joanjosep @TIME @TIMEWorld give the u.s. 40 years to get off oil dependcy and sense will prevail. because the arabs will be back to their camels and sand, and still shiite killing sunni. what a beautiful vision of the future

AhmadW.Ayase
AhmadW.Ayase

@lamano @1joanjosep @TIME @TIMEWorld learn some history, wothout the arabs you wouldn't have a computer nor a cell hone to write that comment from, arabs invinted algebra and numbers, study arabs in islamic spain, ignorant fool.