It looks like they are the linchpin in growing Sunni-Shiite tensions throughout the Arab world.
Plastic toy guns—the kinds with flashy lights and sound effects—were an unlikely source of sectarian tensions Friday. Yet following his weekly sermon in Saida, Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir brandished the toys and accused Lebanese Shia of fomenting sectarian tensions by putting an audio recording on the toy guns that, according to Assir, says in Arabic, “hit Aisha,” a wife of the Prophet Mohammad and a revered figure in Sunni Islam but not in Shia Islam. Addressing Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and Nabih Berri, the leaders of Shia parties Hezbollah and Amal respectively, during his sermon, Assir said: “If you don't take heed of this issue, I will not let you sleep at night as long as I live.”
Assir’s words were reminiscent of those uttered by Sudanese Sheikh Mohammad Al-Amin Ismail who, in a video uploaded in September of last year, also accused Shia of distributing anti-Sunni toy guns. But from when Ismail plays the audio from the guns in his video, it is evident that the recording is in English and that the uttered words are, "Go, go, go! Pull over! Save the hostages!"
These two cases are not unique. In October 2011, 1,500 toy guns were removed from shelves Saudi Arabia for “mocking and offending” Aisha, and a week later nearly 100 more were seized in the United Arab Emirates. More recently, on May 6 of this year, an Egyptian MP held up a plastic toy gun in the People’s Assembly and said it is offensive to Egyptian and Muslim culture as it says the words, “shoot Aisha.”
The increased Sunni-Shia tensions in Lebanon reflect a growing regional antagonism between the two groups, according to Hazem Saghieh, political editor of the London-based newspaper Al-Hayat. The ongoing crisis in Syria, a country whose politics is intrinsically linked to Lebanon’s, is increasingly being seen in Sunni-Shia terms. So too is the ongoing conflict in Bahrain and past protests in Saudi Arabia.
They don't need to have Jews around to act crazy. They manage to do it on their own just fine, thank you.Following Assir’s accusations, both Lebanon’s General Security and Dar al-Fatwa, the seat of the highest Sunni authority in the country, investigated the claim. On Saturday, they both rejected Assir’s accusation as unfounded. The head of Dar al-Fatwa’s Public Affairs department, moreover, confirmed the audio as saying: “Go, go and take the hostages.”
In a phone interview with NOW Lebanon, Assir maintained that while the English sentence was clearly audible, an Iraqi accented voiceover that insulted Aisha was added to the recording.