Lebanon's Hezbollah leader urges Muslims to 'punish' Quran desecrators if governments fail

Hassan Nasrallah's comments were made during a video address on the Shiite holy day of Ashoura

A crowd of Shiite Muslim worshippers in Beirut watch Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah's video address on the holy day of Ashoura on Saturday. AP
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The leader of Lebanon’s Shiite militant group Hezbollah said on Saturday that if governments of Muslim-majority nations do not act against countries that allow the desecration of the Quran, Muslims should “punish” those who facilitate attacks on Islam's holy book.

The comments by Hassan Nasrallah came in a video address to tens of thousands gathered in Beirut’s southern suburbs to mark Ashoura, a Shiite holy day commemorating the seventh-century martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Hussein.

Mr Nasrallah often uses religious occasions to send political messages to followers, and on Saturday criticised recent incidents in which the Quran was burned or otherwise desecrated during sanctioned protests in Sweden and Denmark.

He said Muslims should watch for the outcome of an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, scheduled to take place in Baghdad on Monday to discuss the organisation’s response to the Quran burnings.

The OIC and its member states should “send a firm, decisive and unequivocal message to these governments that any repeat of the attacks will be met with a boycott,” Mr Nasrallah said. If they do not, he added, Muslim youth should “punish the desecrators.”

He did not elaborate what such a boycott and punishment should entail.

Millions of Shiite Muslims in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and around the world on Friday commemorated Ashoura, while Saturday marked the culmination of the observances in countries such as Lebanon, Iraq and Syria.

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims gathered in the Iraqi city of Karbala, where Hussein is entombed in a gold-domed shrine. In the streets of the Baghdad suburb of Sadr City, mourners gathered to watch re-enactments of the Battle of Karbala and Hussein’s death.

In the streets, young men clad in black and white slashed their heads with swords and knives to demonstrate their grief. Friends swabbed each other’s heads with tissues and handed each other water.

In Damascus, the crowds were mourning not only the death of Hussein, but a deadly attack in the suburb of Sayida Zeinab, the site of a shrine to Zeinab, daughter of the first Shiite imam, Ali, and granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad.

A bomb hidden in a motorcycle exploded there on Thursday, killing at least six people and wounding dozens more. On Tuesday, another bomb in a motorcycle had wounded two people.

On Friday, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Updated: July 30, 2023, 7:29 AM