The Washington Post reports: He was young and bright, with an education from Egypt’s premier school of Islamic studies and lucrative job offers in the Gulf.
But Bilal Farag chose a different path, friends say, one that led him to die on a distant Syrian battlefield while fighting Shiite Muslims he regarded as infidels.
“Everybody has their own goal in life,” said a close friend, Hosam Ali. “Bilal’s was to be a martyr.”
Waves of Egyptians are now preparing to follow, fired by the virulently sectarian rhetoric of Sunni preachers and encouraged by the newly permissive policies of Egypt’s Islamist government. In recent days, this city’s ancient mosques have crackled with calls for jihad, as hard-line Sunni Muslim leaders command the faithful to respond to recent escalations in Syria by the Shiite forces of Iran and Hezbollah.
The Sunni backlash has echoed far beyond Egypt, penetrating every corner of the region, where divisions between the rival Muslim sects are hardening fast. At the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Islam’s holiest site, the top cleric broke down in tears on pan-Arab television last week as he pleaded with his fellow Muslims to help the Syrian rebels “by all means.”
Foreign militants have long played a critical role in the Syrian uprising, but the prospect of a fresh flow of radicalized fighters bent on waging sectarian war threatens to complicate the Obama administration’s recently announced strategy to arm the rebellion’s moderate factions. [Continue reading…]