Mosque of Virgin Mary in Tartus plays on ‘sectarian nerve’

The Syrian regime’s Minister of Islamic Trust inaugurated a mosque named after the Virgin Mary in the city of Tartus on Sunday, stating that the mosque’s goal is to “teach Islam as God revealed it…removed from the mistakes of humanity, extremism and labeling apostates (takfir),” reported Syrian state-run news agency SANA.

The mosque’s dedication, attended by a number of state and religious officials, marked “the first time in the Arab and Islamic worlds that a mosque has been named after Lady Mary the Virgin Mother of Christ,” said Doctor Muhamad Abd al-Sattar.

“The building of mosques is a clear expression of a call for good, love, mercy and brotherhood,” continued Abd al-Sattar, also noting in his statements for the occasion that the Syrian army is spilling its blood for the country and the unity of its lands.  

An April report from the Syrian Observatory for Human rights documented 1,400 instances of the regime targeting mosques and 23 cases of targeting churches since the beginning of the war.

While the mosque is in pro-regime Tartus, which boasts a large population of religious minorities, reaction to the dedication on social media was critical.

“If we were thinking rationally, instead of this mosque we would have made a big library or a college or a vocational school or created work opportunities for the youth,” read one comment on the Facebook page Tartus Now.

“It is a failed step by the regime, by which it is trying to play on the sectarian nerve and the idea that it is protecting minorities to show that it is the best option among the factions on the ground in Syria,” Ahmad Haj Bakri, a media activist from the neighboring Latakia province, told Syria Direct on Sunday.

-Photo courtesy of SANA

Noura Hourani

Noura Hourani studied English Literature at Tishreen University and previously worked as a private English tutor. She left Syria at the beginning of the conflict.

James Bowker

James Bowker graduated from Tufts University in 2013 with a double major in Arabic Language & Middle Eastern Studies. He has previously worked with the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) study-abroad program and as a remote translator for the Article 25 Right to Health campaign.