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Threat to Syria

Discussion in 'World Affairs' started by muse, Sep 4, 2010.

  1. muse

    muse PDF THINK TANK: CONSULTANT

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    September 3, 2010
    Syria Seeks to Curb Influence of Muslim Conservatives
    By KAREEM FAHIM

    DAMASCUS, Syria — This country, which had sought to show solidarity with Islamist groups and allow religious figures a greater role in public life, has recently reversed course, moving forcefully to curb the influence of Muslim conservatives in its mosques, public universities and charities.

    The government has asked imams for recordings of their Friday sermons, and started to strictly monitor religious schools. Members of an influential Muslim women’s group have now been told to scale back activities like preaching or teaching Islamic law. And this summer, more than 1,000 teachers who wear the niqab, or the face veil, were transferred to administrative duties.

    The crackdown, which began in 2008 but has gathered steam this summer, is an effort by President Bashar al-Assad to reassert Syria’s traditional secularism in the face of rising threats from radical groups in the region, Syrian officials say
    .

    The policy amounts to a sharp reversal for Syria, which for years tolerated the rise of the conservatives. And it sets the government on the seemingly contradictory path of moving against political Islamists at home, while supporting movements like Hamas and Hezbollah abroad.

    Syrian officials are adamant that the shifts stem from domestic trends, and do not affect their support for groups opposing Israel. At the same time, they have spoken proudly about their secularizing campaign. Some Syrian analysts view that as an overture to the United States and European nations, which have been courting Syria as part of a strategy to isolate Iran and curb the influence of Hamas and Hezbollah.

    Human rights advocates say the policy exacerbates pressing concerns: the arbitrary imprisonment of Islamists, as well as the continued failure to integrate them in political life.

    Pressure on Islamic conservatives in Syria began in earnest after a powerful car bomb exploded in the Syrian capital in September 2008, killing 17 people. The government blamed the radical group Fatah al-Islam.

    “The bombing was the trigger, but the pressure had been building,” said Peter Harling, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group. “After a period of accommodation with the Islamic groups, the regime entered this far more proactive and repressive mode. It realizes the challenge that the Islamization of Syrian society poses.”

    The government’s campaign drew wider notice this summer, when a decision to ban students wearing the niqab from registering for university classes was compared to a similar ban in France. That move seemed to underscore a reduced tolerance for strict observance by Muslims in public life. Syrian officials have put it differently, saying the niqab was “alien” to Syrian society
    .

    The campaign carries risks for a secular government that has fought repeated, violent battles with Islamists in the past, mostly notably in the 1980s, when tens of thousands of people were killed. For the moment there has been no visible domestic backlash, but one cleric, who said he was dismissed without being given a reason two years ago, suggested that could change.

    “The Islamists now have a strong argument that the regime is antagonizing the Muslims,” he said.

    Syrian analysts say the government has complex motives. They point out that it courted religious conservatives when Syria was isolated and facing accusations that it was behind the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri. The government appointed a sheikh instead of a member of the ruling Baathist party to head the Ministry of Religious Affairs, and allowed, for the first time, religious activities to take place in the stadium at Damascus University.

    As the country emerged from that isolation, it focused on domestic threats from sectarianism in neighboring countries and the growing influence of the Islamists. “What they had nourished and empowered, they felt the need to break,” said Hassan Abbas, a Syrian researcher who studies cultural trends
    .

    The details of the campaign have remained murky, though Syrian officials have not been afraid to publicize its aims, especially in foreign media outlets. In an interview with the American talk show host Charlie Rose in May, Mr. Assad was asked to name his biggest challenge.

    “How we can keep our society as secular as it is today,” he said. “The challenge is the extremism in this region

    It is not clear that Syria’s changing posture represents an opening for Western governments focused on Hamas and Hezbollah. Syrian officials say there is no contradiction in their strategy, pointing out that the aims of those groups, their allies in the fight against Israel, differ markedly from jihadists that have set Arab governments in their sights.

    “We didn’t forget Nahr al-Bared,” said Mohammed al-Habash, a Syrian lawmaker, referring to the battles in a Palestinian refugee camp three years ago between Lebanese security forces and Fatah al-Islam. “We have to take this seriously.”

    Beginning in 2008, the government showed signs it was taking the challenge seriously, when it fired some imams along with the leaders of several Islamic charities, according to a the former cleric, who was granted anonymity because he feared reprisal by the government.

    After a period of quiet during Israel’s war with Gaza, the clampdown has intensified in recent months. Last spring, the Qubaisiate, an underground women’s prayer group that was growing in prominence was barred from meeting at mosques
    , according to members. Earlier this summer, top officials in Damascus Governorate were fired for their religious leanings, according to several Syrian analysts.

    Other moves underscore the delicacy of Mr. Assad’s campaign. A planned conference on secularism earlier this year, initially approved by the government, was abruptly canceled for no reason, according to Mr. Abbas.

    Another episode can be seen as a concession to Islamists, or a sign of just how entrenched the conservatives have become. A proposed rewrite of Syria’s personal status law, which governs civil matters including marriage and divorce, leaked last year, retaining provisions that made it legal for men to marry girls as young as 13 years old. Under pressure, including from women’s groups, lawmakers abandoned the draft law.

    “There are limits to what they can do,” Mr. Harling said. “They will try things out and pedal back if things go too far. It says a lot about how difficult it is — even for a regime that is deeply secular itself and whose survival is tied to the secular nature of Syrian society
     
  2. Nahraf

    Nahraf SENIOR MEMBER

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    The Alawi regime in Syria has been targeting Muslims for long time. The Hama massacre still echoes in Middle East.

    SHRC.org | Massacre of Hama (February 1982) Genocide and A crime against Humanity| 2005 Reports
    Massacre of Hama (February 1982)

    Genocide and A crime against Humanity

    Introduction
    First: The crimes of the massacres in Hama.
    Second: Breaching the rights of the Environment.
    Third: Wide-scale Arrests and Physical Liquidation in Custody
    Fourth: Conclusion.

    Introduction
    In the memory of the 24th year since the massive massacre of Hama, and in the light of the detailed analysis of the tragedy which in the city: place, people and history, and the influence of this tragedy on Syria: the country and citizens. We (the Syrian human rights committee) have no alternative but to confirm that the Syrian regime have committed this horrible massacre preceded by determined plans and observations and the regime had the intention to commit a crime of genocide against the citizens of the city and its construction aiming to change the state of the city geographically and demographically.

    Preceding the massacre the regime started to provoke practises against the citizens by killing, arresting, bombing houses and abusing the children, women and elderly this was the spark, which lead to the ignition of the bloodshed. It is not possible to accept the excuses, provided by the regime, of the clear breach to the rights of the citizens and his excuses are based on the claims that they were chasing two hundred people who had, according to the regime’s claims, deviated the regime and breached the law. It is not possible to justify massacres and mass destruction to the buildings including mosques, churches and historic places for alleged security reasons. In fact, the authorities became involved in a wide range of breaches and wild practices and killing, which are considered as ‘crimes of genocide. Syria has never witnessed anything similar to them, even during the resistance against the French colonalisation in the first half of the 20th century.

    Although the massacre in February 1982 became very known worldwide, the Syrian regime committed, before this massacre, several other massacres in different places. Many of the losses were women, children and elderly. Of these massacres was the massacre on Jisr Alshaghoor, which took place on the 10th of March 1980. Some sources said that mortars bombed the city and 97 people were shot dead, after being taken from their homes, and 30 houses were demolished there. The massacres of Sarmadah which saw 40 citizens killed, and the massacre of the village Kinsafrah, which took place at the same time as the massacre of Jisr Alshaghoor. This massacre took place when the villagers asked for improved public services, one citizen was killed and 10 injured. Few months later, the massacre of Palmyra prison was committed on the 26th of June 1980, when around 1000 detainees were killed in their cells. Also the massacre in the Mashariqah neighbourhood, occurring on the morning of Eid Al-Adha, which saw 83 citizens killed after being forced out of their flats. And the massacre at the Sunday market where 42 citizens were killed and 150 were injured. Also the massacre of Al-Raqah, that killed tens of citizens who were held captive in a secondary school and burnt to death.
     
  3. muse

    muse PDF THINK TANK: CONSULTANT

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    Interesting comment - an absolutely lovely example -- So, are the Alawi Muslims?
     
  4. somebozo

    somebozo ELITE MEMBER

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    Syria is a lost cause of identity, failed marriage with communism, failed secular ambitions and failed Lebanon incursion. Even the Arabs dont take Syria seriously and Saudis are foot eroding Alawite regime support by providing direct funding to Islamist and FDI in infrastructure. Who said royality was dead???
     
  5. muse

    muse PDF THINK TANK: CONSULTANT

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    Once again, Saudi funding to promote their version of Islam. Are Alawiites Muslims?
     
  6. oceanx

    oceanx FULL MEMBER

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    Another "genocide"? Let's see what a sympathetic journalist, Robert Fisk, had to say on the occasion of the passing of elder Assad in 2000 ...



    No tears for Assad in city of slaughter

    There are no black flags in old Hama. Except on government buildings, of course. "Oh Master of our nation, to Paradise eternal gone!" it claims on a black cloth draped from a state school.

    There are no black flags in old Hama. Except on government buildings, of course. "Oh Master of our nation, to Paradise eternal gone!" it claims on a black cloth draped from a state school.

    But from the homes of Hama's survivors, there hang only washing and tattered sun-awnings. In the paper shop across the road from the great, creaking "Nuriah" water-wheel, three piles of unsold posters lie on the counter: Hafez el-Assad, Basil el-Assad, Bashar el-Assad. Yet 18 years after the streets here ran with blood, fear remains.

    "What happened, happened," an old Hama friend remarked sadly as the sun cut through the broken glass of an old store and the cats hissed at each other in the light. "The past is gone. We are children of the present, '82 is over with.

    Let's say no more." In the street outside his home, there are more powerful, silent witnesses to the terrors that were visited upon this beautiful old city. Bullet holes are splashed up the cut-stone façade of a burned-out villa, breeze-blocks are crudely stuffed into a shell hole that smashed through the wall of a 17th century house.

    The water-wheel outside the building creaks on, a screaming complaint of ancient iron axles and soaked wood and weight as the water of the Orontes splashes on to the disused aqueducts.

    I saw the wheel on fire in 1982, its water buckets in flames as four tanks beside me punched shells across the river into this very street, the hiss and bang of each round sending back a shock-wave of sound.

    The Muslim Brotherhood defenders had fought underground with guns and knives and grenades in the most ferocious uprising ever staged against Hafez el-Assad's regime. The Syrian army, led by Assad's now-disgraced brother Rifaat, destroyed half the old city and up to 20,000 human beings.

    I call on another old acquaintance beside the river, his face creased with age and a moustache that straggles down his cheeks. "It was difficult to take in such an event," he says. "You are besieged. You have to eat anything you can. Did I think I'd survive? According to God, your age is written on your forehead." And he touched his forehead, slowly. Outside, there are 23 bullet holes in just one wall of his house.

    In the little painters' colony, a middle-aged artist has just completed a portrait of Bashar el-Assad, the anointed heir of Hafez, son of the man who ordered Hama's suppression, nephew of the man who destroyed it.

    He has copied Bashar's face from a magazine photograph and plans to present it as "a surprise" to Hama's Baath Party city governor. He should be pleased. It's a surprisingly life-like picture which ameliorates Bashar's hairline and shows his eyes to be bluer than expected.

    Bashar the computer geek versus Hafez the repressor. It's not hard to see how the people of Hama might prefer Bashar to his father. Though by a vicious irony, the regime now hates Assad's brother Rifaat, the pretender to the throne, almost as much as some people in Hama must hate Rifaat for other reasons.

    In another narrow street, I come across a bearded student of Islamic law in a white khamis, our conversation immediately monitored by my Damascus driver, one Mohamed Hassan Khuder, for the interest of future visitors, whose ears appeared to be as sensitive as his driving, an interesting man because not only was he a party cadre but holds a one-year business visa to the United States.

    Well, said the bearded student, one eye on the ubiquitous Mohamed Khuder, there had been a battle here in 1982 between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Baath Party. "The BBC said that up to 20,000 people had been killed."

    When a Syrian quotes another authority for a figure, it means one thing. He believes it, but cannot be held responsible for it. Personally, I suspect the figure may be closer to 12,000, but no one doubts the scale of slaughter.

    The party men and the Special Forces went round the smoking ruins afterwards, summarily executing the wounded and the suspicious and those who could not explain their presence. Earlier, on a smaller scale, the Muslim Brotherhood had done the same.

    For like all stories, Hama has two sides. In the two years which preceded the destruction, "Islamists" had attacked Baath Party workers in their homes, on one occasion taking a whole family, daughters and babies as well, to cut their throats beside the Orontes river, Algerian style.

    So when the mosques called for a holy war against Assad's regime on 3 February 1982, after an army unit had already been slaughtered in a city-centre ambush , Assad struck back in a way that even the Algerian government has since contrived to study. At the time, the Americans "tut-tutted", then silently approved the crushing of "fundamentalist terrorism".

    "Death a thousand times to the hired Muslim Brothers," Assad shouted in fury. "Death a thousand times to the Muslim Brothers, the criminal Brothers, the corrupt Brothers." And death came a thousand times. "In a word, every home lost one person," an old man told me by the river.

    "Perhaps we will never know the whole story." By the time I reached Hama in 1982, much of the city was in flames, the graveyards were piled with unburied corpses and a woman climbed into my taxi so starving that she snatched from her son the chocolate bar I had given him, and wolfed it down herself. Opposite the city clocktower, Syrian troops lay on their armour in bandages, their blood dripping on to the tank tracks.

    Now the luxurious Sham Hotel, no restaurant open, 20 minutes to serve an orange juice, stands on the rubble of the burned-out homes that lay behind me on that fateful day I wheedled my way into Hama. There are new schools and hospitals and public parks layered over the rubble and bones of the city.

    "Rent a furnished flat," says an advertisement painted on wood beside the scorched wall of a nuriah. "Touristic guidance in ... Syria, the cradle of civilisation, ph: 225252."

    Another artist down the lane has painted a picture of a Hama sinking into a green Orontes river, its windows filled with staring faces, its ruined houses, not shelled or bullet-holed, for that would be a political heresy, but cracked like eggshells.

    In another artist's studio, Hama used to be a cultural centre of Syria and, the party insists, remains so, another painting shows Bashar emerging from the Orontes, arising from the billows in a business suit and blue tie while the nuriah turns slowly beside his right cheek. It is a curious world here, one which acknowledges the past in pastiche, in collective loss of memory, in bullet holes which, so I suspect each time I return to Hama, the authorities are happy to leave here as a warning.

    "Oh, Robert, why don't you give a break to all this about Hama," a Syrian business friend pleaded with me in Damascus, sounding more like a guidance councillor than an economist.

    ...
     
  7. Nahraf

    Nahraf SENIOR MEMBER

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    Alawi Muslims have mixture of Muslim, Christian and pagan beliefs. They themselves say that they are Shia Muslims. Even the Shia consider them Ghulat (extremist). Alawis are self-described Shi'i Muslims, and have been called Shia by other sources including the highly influential Lebanese Shia cleric Musa al-Sadr of Lebanon. On the other hand, conservative Sunnis do not always recognize Alawi as Muslims. At least one source has compared them to Baha'is, Babis, Bektashis, Ahmadis, and "similar groups that have arisen within the Muslim community", and declared that "it has always been the consensus of the Muslim Ulama, both Sunni and Shi'i, that the Nusayri Alawi are kuffar unbelievers and mushrikun polytheists." Alawis themselvs have insisted they were Twelwer Shi'ites since at least the 1920s, in spite of the French encouraging them to identify as a separate religion.
     
  8. somebozo

    somebozo ELITE MEMBER

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    I would support Saudis in this case because the Assads have a history of funding terrorism in other countries. Remember Al Zulfikar?? They are only getting their own medicine handed back to them!
     
  9. muse

    muse PDF THINK TANK: CONSULTANT

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    So Saudi have a right to fund, train and unleash Wahabis on Syria? Dog eat dog world of Islam?

    So, are Alawi Kuffar or Muslims?
     
  10. oceanx

    oceanx FULL MEMBER

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    The above came word-for-word, straight out of Wikipedia. Just curious Nahraf, did you write the entry under Alawi's belief section in Wikipedia?

    The belief section was last edited on July 13 by a "FunkMonk" ... Is that you?
     
  11. Nahraf

    Nahraf SENIOR MEMBER

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    No that's not me. Although I did lot of thousand of entries in Wikipedia. Now I don't since the harassment and reversion wars with Zionist-Indian mods. Although I copied this stuff from Wikipedia. I did write many paragraphs in other sections dealing with Muslim small sects including: Alawi, Alevi, Druze, Ali Ilahi, Yazdani, Ismaili, Bahri, etc
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2010
  12. Nahraf

    Nahraf SENIOR MEMBER

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    The majority of population of Syira is Sunni Hanafi Muslims like in Turkey and Pakistan. The Alawis form 10% while there is smaller Druze and Ismaili populations. The Alawi are considered 'Ghulat' (exaggerators) by both Sunnis and Shias. They incorporate Islamic, Christian and pagan beliefs in their sect/religion.
     
  13. oceanx

    oceanx FULL MEMBER

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    You seem fairly knowledgeable on some topics, Nahraf. I know it's just a small omission ... but kindly indicate the source because the way you laid it out above made it look like it all came from yourself.

    It's no biggie.

    Thanks for clarifying.
     
  14. somebozo

    somebozo ELITE MEMBER

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    Muslims are entering a tublerant phase where biddati impersonators like barelvi, alawais, ali ilahi, etc etc are claiming to be true peace loving muslims while the real muslims are being pushed backwards and labelled as terrorist.. its time for Ummah to act up.
     
  15. Nahraf

    Nahraf SENIOR MEMBER

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    Nearly all Sunnis of South Asia belong to Hanafi schools as is Central Asia, Turkey and Syria. A Muslim seminary was established at deoband in 1866 to reform Muslims and remove some non-Orthodox beliefs and practices that were adopted from pagans. Ahmad Raza Khan of Bareilly started a counter movement to emphasize these practices. So both Barlevi and Deobandi are movements within Sunni Hanafi Islam. While the Alawis, Ali Ilahis and Alevis are movements in Shia Islam. These deify Ali as part of God. Some Muslims do not consider them Muslims.