Rumors have abounded that the real agents behind much of this Sunni-Shia cyber warfare may be non-Muslims applying a divide-and-conquer approach, and that they could be connected to a take-down of many of the terrorist group Al-Qaeda’s websites just before the latest 9/11 anniversary.
Last month, the owners of the Revert Muslim Association (RMA) website tried to log in to their account and found that they could not. Someone in Dubai had been making attempt after attempt to log in pretending to be the RMA owners, so the server had blocked further attempts.
Then the owners learned Sistani.org and many other Shia websites were down. On Ayatollah Sistani’s webpage, a statement written in red lettering scrolled down the screen, saying “Did you think you were alone on the Internet, and nobody was capable of hacking your site?” The message included a YouTube video of Bill Maher trying to belittle some of the rulings from Sayyid Sistani’s Q&A portion of the website. It looked like someone had orchestrated a massive attack on sites related to Shia Islam, including around 285 successful attacks and many other failed attempts, like that on RMA. Many media agencies speculated that the attacks against Shia sites were prompted by Sunni cleric Yousef al-Qaradawi calling the Shia “heretics” and accusing them of trying to “invade” Sunni communities in a Sept. 9 interview on Al-Jazeera. A group of Shia lawyers have since filed a lawsuit against Al-Qaradawi in a Doha court calling for him to be stripped of his Qatari citizenship and expelled from the country because of his statements inciting civil war.
The organization claiming responsibility for most of the cyber attacks on Shia sites called itself Group XP. The group, possibly based in UAE, has made many hack attempts of Shia websites. A record of some of these can be viewed at Zone-h.
Al-Arabiya then reported that on the last day of September, Shia youth responded with a retaliatory hack of more than 900 Sunni websites, including its own. Indeed, buzz immediately following the mid-September attacks among some of the Shia forums frequented by youth, such as ShiaChat, did include discussion of hacking Sunni sites in response. But, there is no apparent evidence that members of the forums actually were behind any of the counter attacks.
According to Iranian news media, Ashianeh Securities in Iran claimed responsibility for at least some of the counter-hacks on Sunni sites. They said that they put verse 194 of Sura Baqarah on about 300 Wahabi websites: “And one who attacks you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you.”
Ashianeh Securities said that they did not damage the Wahhabi sites but only altered the home page, as they do not believe in incurring loss to the Muslims. They also claimed to have hacked many Israeli and Denmark-based sites derogatory to Islam in the past. Grand Ayatollah Nasir Makarem Shirazi reportedly met with Ashianeh Securities members behind the counter-hacks and thanked them for their service.
Al-Azhar recently issued an edict for Sunnis declaring hacking acceptable. “This is considered a type of lawful Jihad that helps Islam by paralyzing the information systems used by our enemies for their evil aims,” said the edict, which does not mention attacking Shia sites specifically.
Kamran Bokhari, a Middle East analyst for a Texas-based intelligence company, said the attacks on Shia and Sunni sites originated from all over the Arab world and therefore that someone was behind the scenes organizing and encouraging the hacks. He felt intelligence organizations had to be involved. Mustafa Alani, director of the Center for Counter-Terrorism at the Dubai-based Gulf Research Council, agreed. No one, however, has said they could definitely verify any claims of responsibility for hacks or identify the source of any hack attacks, and thus no one knows if the Sunni-Shia cyber war was actually started and organized by Sunnis and Shias.
Rumors have abounded that the real agents behind much of this Sunni-Shia cyber warfare may be non-Muslims applying a divide-and-conquer approach, and that they could be connected to a take-down of many of the terrorist group Al-Qaeda’s websites just before the latest 9/11 anniversary. Western or Zionist interests could surely be served by such efforts and distractions. Hackers may have attempted to extend an olive branch in one of their hacks of a Sunni website that wished Eid greetings to all Muslims. While attacks have slowed down for now, they have not stopped entirely. But now perhaps people are taking the time to reflect. Is this really the direction we want to head? Is this a good direction or a bad one? Are people being deceived and misguided to promote disunity? Cyber warfare is most likely here to stay. But the Internet does not have to be yet another battlefield of Muslim against Muslim.