There is a great darkness over Syria. As one of the territories of Bilad ash-Sham, a land blessed by the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and the Holy Qur’an, one sometimes wonders whether we’re not facing an Armageddon.
Right now the realities are stark: the numbers of casualties have become meaningless in the face of human disaster. Syria is tearing itself apart in a vicious civil war, a war that started off as a peaceful uprising against a despotic regime two years ago.
And not only that, the long shadow of the conflict is beginning to extend everywhere. Shi’ah-Sunni sectarianism (which is now bedeviling Iraq and Lebanon) has even reared its ugly head locally, and reporting on Syria has become a loaded question with the messenger in the crosshairs.
Since April I’ve been badgered almost on a daily basis to condemn the Free Syrian Army, especially the Salafi-Wahhabi Jabhat an-Nusra – but not President al-Asad. One person, Adil, has even suggested that together with the Muslim Judicial Council (and the Gift of the Givers), I’m guilty of a conspiracy of silence.
Far from it – there’s been no silence. I’ve written copiously on Syria and have conducted a wide range of on-air interviews. My job is not to release daily communiqués, but to expose the issues without becoming bogged down in the mire of agendas that curse Syria.
I have written, for example, that FSA commanders have expressed concern about the extremism of An-Nusra, but what also has to be conceded (as I’ve been told by studio guests) is that An-Nusra – a militarily capable entity – does enjoy a measure of support amongst Syrians too.
Or as GlobalPost journalist in Syria, Tracey Shelton, observes: with Jabhat an-Nusra one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. In other words, the maxim that ‘your enemy is my enemy’ applies very much to the Syrian crisis.
Those who see me as one-eyed don’t seem to realise that the FSA is very often a disparate collective of Syrian civilians trying to protect themselves against a belligerent dictator. The point is that the FSA is not a standing army with any measure of military equipment, let alone combat training or a single, coherent voice.
Gift of the Givers CEO, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, told me this was why President Asad has attacked civilian installations such as hospitals and, yes, bread queues. In Syria there are few, if any, genuine military targets. There are no FSA tanks, there is no FSA artillery and there are no FSA fighter jets taking to the air.
So it begs the question: who, then, has done the killing of 70,000 plus Syrians, mainly civilians? Who has destroyed Syria’s cities and towns?
The Quilliam Foundation, a UK-based foundation, has estimated that Jabhat an-Nusra has the support of about only 5,000 fighters.
“You know sh.. about the Middle East,” Shaista informed me on Facebook when I tried (obviously unsuccessfully) to explain the complexities of the Syrian cold war between the US, the EU, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran, China and Russia.
But back to Jabhat an-Nusra, declared a terrorist organisation by the US in December 2012, and said to have links to Al-Qaeda groups in Iraq.
“If the US wants to make peace in the world, then we are with them. We are on the side of peace and justice and whoever brings it,” are the words of an An-Nusra commander to Tracey Shelton last year.
However, what the commander fails to mention is that An-Nusra has been responsible, like Asad, for attacks on civilians. As an organisation claiming to be fighting for a Shari’ah-centric Caliphate, Jabhat an-Nusra is a blatant contradiction in terms.
The killing of civilians via suicide bombings, the slitting of the throats of POW’s (and if the New York Times is to be believed, the use of nerve gas) directly contradicts Shari’ah, or Sacred Law. In Sacred Law the means can never justify the end – never.
This is something that the late Shaikh Ramadan al-Buti, the renowned international scholar and author of over 60 books, preached in his Damascus mosque. A politically cautious man, he had also evoked the mainstream Sunni ruling that if the overthrow of a dictatorial regime led to worse suffering, the wise choice would be to seek the lesser of the two evils.
In a conflict now renowned for its unbridled violence, Shaikh Buti was murdered whilst teaching his evening class. Shaikh Muhammad Yaqoubi, another Syrian scholar, had disagreed with Shaikh Buti, but had done so with absolute decorum – and not a bomb blast.
And whilst there has been a mysterious silence on who actually killed Shaikh Buti, there was an open admission recently from Jabhat an-Nusra when the 7th century tomb of a Prophetic companion, Hajr ibn ‘Adi al-Kindi, was desecrated in Damascus.
According to the New York Times, Ibn ‘Adi’s body was exhumed and buried ‘somewhere else’ (to prevent Muslims from worshipping the grave), a Salafi-Wahhabi chestnut that has seen historical tombs vandalised by Saudi-indoctrinated ignoramuses with AK47’s in almost every conflict zone in the Muslim world.
This, together with rumours of covert US ‘lethal arms’ support for Jabhat an-Nusra, is yet another disconcerting development in an already disturbing conflict. Jabhat an-Nusra may not rape the enemy, it may not utilise 45 different methods of torture like Asad, but the damage it will cause to the Syrian struggle in an Islamophobic world will be immeasurable.
Once again, the centre of Islam will be judged by its extremist edges – stereotypical 'jihadis' will become our representative faces in the market-place.
We have to remind ourselves that the Salafi-Wahhabi concept of a Caliphate, a so-called Shari’ah-centric nation sans madh-haib (legal schools of thought) and freedom of speech – but resplendent with public stoning, soccer stadium hangings, the marginalisation of women and limb amputations – will be nothing more than an Islamo-fascist state.
Indeed, it is my prediction that Jabhat an-Nusra, today’s ‘heroes’ in Syria, will become tomorrow’s problem.