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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Shi’ites Establish Themselves in Sunni Mosque in Damascus

Filed under: Radical Islam, The Middle East

Something happened last week in Damascus: Shi’ites opened a prayer corner – a Hussania – in the Great Mosque of Damascus, the Umayyad Mosque, and thereby settled a historical account going back to the dawn of Islam.

In videos posted on social networks1 the Shi’ites appear joyful and merry, cursing the Caliph Yazid and making indecent hand movements when his name is mentioned.  The Shi’ite imam seems to speak in an Iraqi dialect. He asks: “Do you know what this place is?” And the audience erupts in laughter. He praises the family of Hussein, grandson of the Prophet, after whom the Shi’ite prayer sites Iran is spreading throughout the Sunni Arab world are named.  Hussein was massacred with his family in Karbala by the Umayyads, after whom the Great Mosque in Damascus is named.

Umayyad Mosque, Damascus, Syria
Umayyad Mosque, Damascus, Syria (Wikimedia Commons)

This mosque is the beating heart of the Sunnis in Syria – and beyond. It is considered an architectonic glory, and its fall into Shi’ite hands is of no small significance.

The Shi’ite imam also praises “Lady Zainab,” the daughter of Ali, who survived the Karbala massacre and is buried in Damascus. Up to now the tomb of Zainab bint Ali has been the holiest Shi’ite shrine in Syria. Addressing Lebanese Shi’ites, Hizbullah justified its intervention in Syria by the need to protect the Tomb of Zainab, which was in danger of desecration by Sunni groups. Now it appears, the Umayyad Mosque will become a Shi’ite shrine, thus closing a 1300-year-old circle.

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