Hezbollah is facing widespread criticism in the Muslim world for its concerted effort at bolstering embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad, including the deployment to Syria of thousands of its terrorists who in the past had their guns trained primarily on Israel. This support has now prompted Turkey’s deputy prime minister to suggest Hezbollah -- which in Arabic is “Party of God” -- should change its name to the “Party of Satan.”
Speaking over the weekend at the “Problems of the Islamic World and Solutions” conference, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag suggested Hezbollah now call itself “Hezb al-Shaitan,” that is, the Party of Satan, because the group is lending its strong arm to Assad’s forces, which have killed thousands of civilians.
"Those who stand by the Assad regime and kill their own Muslim brothers and indiscriminately kill women and children in the battlefield should not appeal to Islam and the Quran to legitimize their actions," Bozdag said, according to the Turkish news site Today’s Zaman.
The senior Turkish official compared Syria’s Assad to Pharaoh in the book of Exodus in the Bible, drawing parallels between Pharaoh’s order to slay all Israelite newborns in Egypt and Assad’s violent campaign to maintain his grip on power.
“The Pharaoh gave orders for the killing of innocent children and their mothers to maintain power. What is the difference between what the Pharaoh did and Assad is doing?” Bozdag said.
Bozdag also took the opportunity to condemn racism, which he blames for the deepening divisions within Islam. The population of Turkey is predominantly Sunni Muslim.
“Racism is a sickness that threatens Turkey and other countries in the Middle East. If someone decides to kill a man based on racist feelings, then he rejects the book of God and His orders. Quran and Islam do not absolutely approve of killing of people based on racist feelings. Turkey has been fighting against racist terrorism for the past 30 years,” he said, according to Today’s Zaman.
Like Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who frequently lambastes those who he says promote "Islamophobia," Bozdağ criticized efforts at associating Islam with terrorism.
“There is an international media that works for Islam to be remembered with activities of violence and terror and make Muslims to be believed to be terrorists. Whoever is carrying this propaganda is making a huge slander against Islam,” he said.
Criticism of Hezbollah for its support of Assad is being voiced beyond Syria’s neighbor Turkey.
In an analysis piece published over the weekend, AFP wrote of the Lebanon-based group, “The powerful Shiite movement has won widespread support outside Lebanon for standing up to Israel on the battlefield. But its involvement in Syria fighting alongside President Bashar al-Assad's troops against rebels has tarnished its reputation in the region, analysts told AFP.”
"Hezbollah's reputation has suffered not only in the Arab world but also in Lebanon. Gone are the days when polls named [Hezbollah chief Hassan] Nasrallah as the most popular political leader in the Arab world for his resistance against Israel," Lebanese University Political Science Professor Ghassan al-Azzi said, according to AFP.