Nur al-Cubicle

A blog on the current crises in the Middle East and news accounts unpublished by the US press. Daily timeline of events in Iraq as collected from stories and dispatches in the French and Italian media: Le Monde (Paris), Il Corriere della Sera (Milan), La Repubblica (Rome), L'Orient-Le Jour (Beirut) and occasionally from El Mundo (Madrid).

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Progression of Islamism in Syria

From last week's L'Orient Le-Jour, a peek at Islamist inroads in Syria courtesy of Agence France Presse. Here's the translation.

Islamism in Damascus

Despite its secular political system, Syrian society is being more and more overtaken by Islamism, which is beginning to penetrate the Arab world.

The increasing participation of young people in Friday prayers, private Koranic lessons for women and spreading adoption of the veil are manifestations of the resurgence of Islam in the Syrian street. Syrian legislator and Director of the Center for Islamic Studies, Mohammad Habash, tells AFP that nearly 30% of Syrians now attend Friday prayers in Syria’ 9,000 mosques. If women and children are counted, the number of faithful is 12 million, out of a population of 18 million. We are witnessing a religious revival, which presages the return of Islamic values, says Habash.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which defied the Ba’ath Party (a secular and pan-Arab movement), were harshly oppressed in February 1982 in Hama, north of Damascus. The repression resulted in thousands of dead and arrests in the city, which was besieged by the army.

In another sign of the resurgence of Islam, restaurants along the Barada River, a zone reserved for leisure and relaxation near Damascus, no longer offer alcoholic beverages. Dining areas are now reserved for families –an Islamic tradition.

Traditionally secular bookstores have gradually given up terrain to stores specializing in the distribution of works on Sharia, Islamic law. Islamic cultural centers and charities are multiplying, especially in conservative cities of Aleppo, Idleb and Hama, north of Damascus.

The worsening economic and social situation, corruption and dictatorship feed the Islamic movement and guarantees it a wide audience, says a former Communist militant, on the condition of anonymity.

Political analyst Akram al-Bounni believes that by blocking the opening up of politics to religious movements, the government drives youth into the arms of the Islamists and increases their audience. Following the 1980's repression of the Muslim Brotherhood, the authorities have been encouraging moderate, apolitical Islam to avoid being labeled hostile toward Islam by the Sunni majority. Islamism will weaken with an opening towards democracy, says al-Bounni.

Following their defeat in Hama, the Islamists have adopted the strategy of penetrating society from the bottom up, thanks to its network of associations and to financial assistance from the Salafists, says Rami, a student at Damacus University’s School of Journalism. The Saudis have financed the construction of hundreds of mosques, especially in Christian and Druze areas, where minarets are have sprouted up all over, he adds. To counter this tendency, Syrian authorities are making a media event out of their participation in religious rites.

A moderate Islamist movement led by Salah Kaftaro (son of the Mufti of the Republic) and Mohammad Habash has been born. The movement is working towards official Islam, whose objective is to contain the influence of radical religious movement, which is spreading through the country in areas where Sufi Islam is traditionally practiced by the majority. In pursuing this strategy, the government has approved the opening of 300 theological institutes. Besides providing a specialized and conformist Koranic education, these institutes allow the security services to identify and to monitor extremists elements. Since 1980, membership Muslim Brotherhood can be punished by the death penalty but hundreds of Islamist prisoners, most of whom are leaders Brotherhood, have been granted amnesty. Most exiles returned to Syria in the 1990’s.

After having failed to topple the government by armed insurrection, the weakened and divided Muslim Brotherhood no longer dissimulates its objectives. They hope one day to take power through the ballot box and to participate in a future democratic government.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hope that happens

3:13 PM  
Blogger furtherleft said...

Deja Vu all over again. Sounds a little like the Untied Slates of Aremica. Next step is for politicians to learn to milk it and unwittingly in process take themselves down along with it, once again just as in the Untied Slates, which by that time will hopefully be long gone from the map.

3:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

4:03 AM  
Blogger markfromireland said...

Just to make things really interesting most of the Nomenklatura in Syria are Allawites. A group considered to have a dubious claim to being Muslim by most Muslims (including the Shia of whom they are an offshoot.)

When you add to that the fact that there's a bitter power struggle going on withing Assad fils' government it becomes very interesting indeed. The word "interesting" to be read in the sense of "may you live in intersting times."

It's very noticeable when you go to Syria how much the atmsophere has changed in the place.

4:24 AM  
Blogger markfromireland said...

Blast I should have added that the paragraph in the article about the source of funding for much is this is correct but western readers shouldn't read too much into that. The ikhwanis (the Muslim Brotherhood) are also making a comeback and to say that the they and the Salafiyyah don't get on is to put it mildly.

Sorry 'bout that.

4:29 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home