Syria's Choice

by Khaled Abu Toameh

November 4, 2011

What started as a secular Facebook revolution against the Assad regime is now beginning to look more like a jihad [holy war] led by Muslim fundamentalists.

The Muslim Brotherhood is clearly seeking to hijack the anti-Assad protests, in both the political and military fields.

In the past few months, there have been many signs of a "return to Islam" in Syrian society. Large banners urging women to wear the hijab have appeared in Damascus and other main cities and many restaurants and hotels have stopped serving alcohol in keeping with Islamic law. This is in addition to the fact that many of the daily anti-Assad demonstrations are being launched from mosques, especially after Friday prayers.

The Muslim Brotherhood is by no means a "moderate" organization. Its motto leaves no room for questions about its true intentions: "Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Koran is our law. Jihad [holy war] is our way. Dying for the sake of Allah is our highest hope." Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual leader, Sheikh Yusef al-Qaradawi, has come out in favor of suicide bombings, which he cslled "evidence of God's justice;" the death penalty for homosexuals; the beating of women; a genocidal a hatred of Jews.

According to reports in the Arab media, Islamic fundamentalist groups have been smuggling weapons into Syria from Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.

Most of these weapons have fallen into the hands of Muslim fundamentalists, who are now waging a guerrilla warfare against Assad's security forces, the reports say.

Syria's fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood organization, which was banned by the Syrian dictator's father, Hafez Assad, decades ago, has come back to life thanks to the uprising that was initially launched by secular forces.

"We have a desire to coordinate the position of the opposition," declared Zuhair Salim, a spokesman for Syria's Muslim Brotherhood. "We are supporters and not creators."

As has been the case in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya, Syria's Islamists did not show their faces in public at the beginning of the anti-Assad uprising. Instead, they preferred to wait in the shadows to see where the uprising was headed.

Muslim Brotherhood officials have already found their place in the main opposition group, the Syrian National Council, which was formed in Istanbul last September with support from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the US State Department.

Although the Muslim Brotherhood has not joined the council officially, it has many representatives there.

Out of the 19 members of the council's general secretariat, four belong to the Muslim Brotherhood and six are "independent" Islamists.

The participation of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Syrian National Council is seen in the context of the Islamists' hitherto successful bid to hijack the Arab Spring.

What is disturbing is that while the US and many European governments have endorsed the Islamist-dominated opposition council, they have also turned their backs on secular groups that are opposed to the creation of a Sharia state in Damascus.

Last week Assad hinted at the possibility that his country could fall into the hands of Islamists when he warned that Syria would become "another Afghanistan" if the West intervened in favor of his enemies.

For many Syrians, the only choice today is between a secular regime led by Assad and Muslim fundamentalists seeking to turn their country into an Islamic state.

The recent victory of the Islamists in the Tunisian elections is serving as a catalyst for the Muslim Brotherhood to double its efforts to replace the Assad regime.

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