The graphic above is a screenshot of a real, live poll conducted on Al Jazeera Arabic. It asks readers to give their opinion on who is responsible for turning the Syrian revolution into a sectarian conflict. And it offers two choices: Sunnis or Shiites.
In what may be an indication of the audience of Al Jazeera, which has been accused of favoring the predominantly Sunni opposition against Bashar al-Assad, an overwhelming 95.7 percent of readers as of this morning said the Shiites were to blame.
The poll itself, of course, is a painfully ham-handed effort — the assumption that either the Shiite or Sunni communities as a whole are responsible for the gruesome turn of events itself endorses a sectarian view of the conflict. But it also suggests a broader, sadder truth: While Syrians may not have harbored religious hatreds two years ago, they are increasingly being forced to choose sides in a sectarian conflict.
As the radicalization of both sides continues, it’s not just Al Jazeera readers who are being asked to look at the Syrian revolt as a struggle between rival faiths — regular Syrians are being forced to think this way as well. It’s a view that boils the war down to a simple choice: Who do you hate, the Sunnis or the Shiites? Check a box.
David Kenner is the Middle East editor for Foreign Policy. | Passport |