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TV Host Wonders Why Syrian Rebels Haven't Been More Serious About Ethnic Cleansing

Faisal al-Qassem, the host of Al Jazeera's The Opposite Direction, asked why Shia Muslims haven't been expelled from Sunni areas in Syria.

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The host of one of Al Jazeera's most popular — and controversial — shows recently demanded to know why Syria's rebels still tolerated Shia Muslims in largely Sunni areas.

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Faisal al-Qassim, the host of Al Jazeera's The Opposite Direction, was interviewing Zein Eddin, coordinator for the Syrian opposition groups, on Tuesday when he asked about the rebel's battlefield choices.

Al Jazeera

"This is your problem," Qassim said. "You fight all of your battles with the regime in Sunni areas. What about Damascus? What about the Alawites on the coast?"

Eddin countered that those areas are protected by the Russian air force.

"I want to ask you this. Nubi and al-Zahra are Shia colonies in the heart of Sunni land," Qassim said, naming two Shia majority cities in Aleppo. "Why don't you expel them as they did to you and curse the ones who gave birth to them?"

Al Jazeera / Via Facebook: integrityuk.org

Eddin said that it was "for the children" of several towns besieged by the Syrian government that such actions were not taken.

On Friday, Qassim took to Twitter to defend himself from claims that he was stirring sectarian animosity:

المضحك في سوريا أن العالم يدعو إلى حماية الأقليات، لكن المضحك أكثر أن هذا العالم الأعور يتجاهل حقيقة أن 99.99 من الضحايا بسوريا من الأكثرية

"The funny thing in Syria, is that the world is calling for the protection of minorities, but the most funny thing is that this half-blind world ignores the fact that 99.99 of the victims in Syria are from the majority," he wrote.

"I never care about religion or nationality of the victims, all I care about is that he is a victim, [We] must stand with the victims," he said, listing off several groups that should be supported.

لا تهمني أبداً ديانة أو جنسية الضحية.ما يهمني أنه ضحية ويجب أن نتضامن إنسانيا مع الضحايا حتى لو كانوا من جماعة طنفوش بو زطة الشرشبيلي التاسع

It isn't al-Qassim's first run-in with controversy over the course of the Syrian conflict. In 2015, he was panned for asking whether Syrian's Alawite minority should be collectively punished for destroying Syria.

Joseph Eid / AFP / Getty Images

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is himself Alawite and has not hesitated to suggest that rebel forces would take vengeance on the rest of his people should he fall from power.

And Al Jazeera itself has been accused of promoting sectarianism in the region. In this 2013 poll posted on its website, the network asked whether readers believed it was Syria's Sunnis or Shia who turned the conflict into a sectarian one.

Al Jazeera / Via indexoncensorship.org

Al Jazeera did not respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News about al-Qassim's statements.

Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Hayes Brown at hayes.brown@buzzfeed.com.

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