September 18, 2013

The new book by Dr. Muhammad Abu Rumman “ Islamists, Religion and Revolution in Syria ” (issued by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation) provides an analytical framework for understanding the armed and active Islamist groups in the Syrian revolution, by building a map of their ideological and political trends; Its size and presence in the Syrian scene.

 The researcher reviewed the results and conclusions of the study, on Tuesday at the Landmark Hotel, in the presence of a large group of Jordanian intellectuals and politicians, and under the auspices of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, and its director, Anya Weiler.

After the researcher reviewed the main ideological trends of the armed groups in the Syrian revolution, the reader puts the reader in front of multiple Islamic political agendas that differ in their vision of the revolution, the state and society, and differ in their ideologies in the form of the political system in which they believe, and in their position on democracy, political and religious pluralism, minority rights and the guarantee of basic freedoms even In the concept of the Islamic state itself. 

In general, a distinction can be made here between five main agendas; The Brotherhood, Salafi, Salafi-jihadi and Al-Qaeda agenda, the Sufi-Sheikhdom agenda, and finally the general moderate Islamism.

1-  The Brotherhood’s agenda: The  priorities of the Brotherhood’s agenda are first keen to overthrow the current regime, and get rid of it, in parallel with rebuilding and restoring the group’s institutions and its kinetic and political presence, and returning to Syrian society after it lost a large part of that during the last period, and supporting armed action, With the establishment of some groups linked to the group, and the increase of its political influence at home and abroad.

 The group currently enjoys close relations with Turkey and Qatar, and benefits from the political, logistical and media support of these countries, in addition to the political and solidarity support that it receives from the Muslim Brotherhood abroad.

 On the level of political and ideological discourse, the Muslim Brotherhood has been distinguished since its inception in Syria (1946) by not hesitating to engage in political and parliamentary action and to participate in coalitions with other secular and political forces, and its leaders participated in parliamentary elections and in government, before entering into a clash with the Baath Party. The Socialist Party since 1963, then the armed confrontations that ended in the Hama events in 1982, and the elimination of the group at home.

2-   The Salafist Agenda:  If we look at the Salafi agendas in general from the standpoint of presence, role and power, we will find on the military level that the Islamic Front, which is formed from Ahrar Al-Sham, Al-Fajr, the Fighting Vanguard, and Liwa Al-Haq and others, is the main expression of this local agenda, and is compatible with it. On this agenda are other factions within the Islamic Liberation Front, such as: Al-Tawhid and Al-Farouq Brigades, Al-Farouq Al-Islamiya, Suqur Al-Sham, and Liwa Al-Islam.

On the civil level, we find the Islamic Levant Authority, the movement Salafism and associations involved in charitable, relief, advocacy and educational work, and the manifestations of the movement Salafism are the most present.

On the ground, the agenda of these factions is to get rid of the current regime, as an absolute priority, and these factions participate with other Islamic factions in armed action and in managing the liberated areas.

Some of these factions, such as Ahrar al-Sham, al-Tawhid, and Suqur al-Sham, during the armed revolution, participated in various civil, service and administrative works, and worked to transcend the formula of armed action in their relationship with society, towards a network of different institutions, although so far the armed nature of the Syrian protests imposes itself on The priorities and positions of these movements.

These factions all agree on the principle of “implementing Islamic law” during the revolution and its aftermath, and some of them participate in the establishment and support of Sharia boards, which are in charge of the judiciary in accordance with the provisions of Islamic Sharia, and in supporting committees for the promotion of virtue and the prevention of vice, which raises fundamental questions about their belief in individual freedoms. Man-made laws and respect for human rights and public freedoms.

 On the ideological and political level, most of these factions present the concept of the Islamic state as the desired political system, which is based on the arbitration or adherence to Islamic Sharia as the only source of Islamic legislation, as stated by the leaders of the Tawhid Brigades, Ahrar al-Sham, al-Faruq and Suqur al-Sham.

 3- Al-Qaeda’s agenda: The vision of the factions – which adopt the line of jihadist Salafism or belong to Al-Qaeda –  differs greatly from the agenda of other Islamic factions, although the general goal combines both the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and the Al-Nusra Front; However, there are partial and “tactical” differences in dealing with the stage of the revolution and the relationship with society and the state.

 In terms of priorities, both the Islamic State and the Front view the conflict from an ideological and sectarian angle, in the first place, as it is a clash with a sectarian-Nusayri regime, and with the Shiites, Iran and Hezbollah, and these factions speak not as expressing the Syrian people and their aspiration for freedom and democracy, but rather as representing Sunni Muslims, inside and outside Syria.

These factions blend local, global and regional conflict; It sees the battle in Syria as an integral part of the battle in Iraq with Iran, the battle with the United States and the West, or the camp of Islam and the camp of infidelity, according to the discourse of these groups.

 This perspective is shared by the state and al-Nusra, although they differ in tactics and priorities, as al-Nusra (in the beginnings) avoided (before al-Baghdadi’s announcement of its affiliation with al-Qaeda in April 2013) to announce the presence of al-Qaeda in Syria, and did so only when it was forced after al-Baghdadi’s announcement It focused on the local conflict and the direct battle with the Assad regime, and was cooperating with other armed factions in armed action.

 Necessarily, both the Islamic State and the Front are committed to the political agenda of al-Qaeda, which looks at the conflict from a global and regional perspective, and arranges its priorities according to this agenda. Therefore, the overthrow of the Syrian regime does not necessarily represent a main goal for this movement. Looking at Syria is an arena of conflict And a new incubator for the growth of al-Qaeda and its movement and building its capabilities and expertise, as is the case in Yemen, Algeria, Iraq and other countries and regions in the world. 

4- Presbyterian-Sufi agendas; Despite the weak and ambiguous role of Sufi groups in armed action, and their division in their attitude towards the revolution and protests in general, what distinguished Damascus and Aleppo was the intense presence of religious sheikhs and mosques and their close relationship with the local community, and the adoption of a style of Islam closer to Sufism at different levels, which appears in Aleppo More clear in its religious and societal line than Damascus.

There are no political and military parties or forces that provide us with a clear definition of the agendas of these groups and their ideological perceptions of the desired political system, but their reality and interests illustrate the predominance of the societal aspect over the political, and their focus on advocacy, charitable and educational work, with the different and varying perceptions they present to the desired Islamic system, among the Qubeis women. (Who are silent), the Zayd Group (talking about Islamic identity), and the official religious institution (alliance with the Syrian regime and defending its legitimacy). 

6- Democratic  Islamists Other Islamic groups and currents join the Muslim Brotherhood in declaring acceptance of democracy, political pluralism, the transfer of power, and the consolidation of the principle of citizenship, such as the Syrian National Movement, and to a close degree the Justice and Construction Movement, although it is less clear in its literature than the national current in this regard. Advertising.


In the last chapters of the book, the researcher deals with the topic of extending the relationship between religiosity and society and the political future of these groups.

 socially; The researcher points out that a steady revival, presence and expansion occurred on the level of Salafist currents in the Syrian scene, but it is (as Abdul Rahman al-Hajj points out) closer to a “war tool,” meaning that it is related to the conditions of the current armed conflict and the exceptional circumstances of the Syrian revolution, and is linked to its nature as it started from The countryside towards the cities, and is also related to the nature of foreign funding, part of which initially assumed an Islamic character, through mediators of Salafi Islamic currents in the Gulf, and from Qatar and Turkey, which have good relations with Islamists, and adopt an agenda that supports the Islamic Brotherhood and Salafist line in general.

   The two densely populated cities, Damascus and Aleppo, did not enter the line of the armed revolution until at a late stage, and they may have been pushed through the surrounding countryside, while the start, rise and spread of the protests across the marginalized countryside, fringes, and cities was politically or economically. And if the general Sufi trend of an urban nature is more present and widespread in these two cities.

 On the other hand, the Sufi trend has demonstrated, over the past decades, a great ability to adapt to the nature of the urban Levantine society, and the ability to rebuild and restore its networks in a short and quick period, as happened with the Zaid group, in the nineties after the return of its leader Osama al-Rifai to Syria.

 It is the open, moderate and moderate religious pattern that distinguishes historical Levantine cities, which is reflected in the Sufi and Brotherhood trends and the role of religious scholars and sheikhs, who insist on Islamic identity, but in its general loose image, even the reformist “Salafi Shami” style, which has prevailed since the beginning of the twentieth century Until the conflict with the nationalists and Baathists erupted in the 1960s, they were Salafis open to other currents, and the religious leaders of associations such as the urbanization and the glue, had a societal and political presence, and participated in public life effectively at certain times.

 As for jihadist Salafism, it flourishes and strengthens during periods of conflict and war, and in the midst of sectarian, religious and sectarian conflicts, and when the political horizon fades, as happened in Iraq and Syria, and this trend continues to suffer with society when the talk moves to its social, political and cultural agenda, as happened in Iraq ( Previously) in the year 2007, when the Islamic State was established (as a front for Al-Qaeda), then it entered into a confrontation with the other armed Sunni forces, then with the Syrian society. The faltering of the political process in Iraq on the one hand, and the extension of the Sunni-Shiite conflict from Syria to the region.

 at the political level ; The researcher believes that the continuation of the armed conflict for a long time, while the protests maintain their current characteristics, and in light of regional agendas will keep the Salafi presence active and a leader, but with the passage of time the Brotherhood will strive to restore its institutions and its civil and military presence in different regions, and the Sufi movements will regain part of their effectiveness with Adaptation to new emergency conditions, especially in major cities.

 It is possible that the state of clash and conflict between the Islamic currents will be reinforced by the impact of ideological and intellectual differences, specifically with regard to the management of the liberated areas, a conflict whose precursors and features began between the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant on the one hand and other forces on the other hand, and if the capabilities of Al-Qaeda developed to a degree It is larger and began to threaten the neighboring regional areas, and this will enhance the role of international agendas in confronting them by supporting other Sunni factions.

 But in the event of the fall of the regime, or if an international deal takes place that ended the reign of President Bashar al-Assad and led to a transitional phase, under international sponsorship, as is the case in Yemen, and the political system began to take shape and the various parties entered the political game, the constitution-building process and the restructuring of public institutions The current trends will turn into various Islamic political parties and forces, between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi and democratic Islamic trends, and we will find a diverse map of these competing agendas, differing between them (as we noted earlier) in their political agendas and party programs in their vision of democracy, the state, society and the relationship with the West And the position on individual and public liberties, minorities and women, and we will enter into Islamic-Islamic, and Islamic-secular debates, as is happening in the countries of the Arab democratic spring today, and the “transitional phase” will depend on the capabilities of the various political forces in managing their internal conflicts and differences.