Thursday, June 04, 2015

Convert or die: Normalizing Al Qaeda

As we have noted many times, the Nusra Front in Syria is simply the local branch of Al Qaeda. I think it fair to state that most Americans are not inclined to take an "all is forgiven" attitude toward Al Qaeda. And yet, as noted in this previous post, there are formidable efforts underway to rehabilitate the image of the world's most notorious terrorist organization.

The Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, has said with as much directness as he dare that any anti-Assad group not named ISIS should be considered a member of our Official Good Guys Club. This includes Nusra/Al Qaeda.

Not too long ago, Al Jazeera interviewed Abu Muhammad al-Julani, a cleric associated with Nusra. He is treated very respectfully, even though much of what he says is horrific.
Alawites who turn their back on the regime, repent and embrace Islam will be regarded as brothers and hence forgiven.
The Alawites are an offshoot of Shiite Islam. (Syrian leader Bashar Assad is an Alawite.) When al-Julani says "embrace Islam," he means his particular form of Sunni Islam. This is akin to an Irish Protestant saying that all Catholics should embrace "Christianity" (that is, become Protestant) or be killed.

The message here is very old, and very evil: "Convert or die." For more than a thousand years, Sunni and non-Sunnis have lived amicably in Syria, but not anymore -- thanks to our new buddies, the Nusra Front.
The majority of the Christians support the regime, but we are not at war with them. We are at war with those who are fighting against us. If the Christians repent, they will be succumbed to Shari’a laws and will pay Jizya.
"Jizya" is a tax levied against anyone who is not a Muslim. Although the jizya has not been paid in Syria for more than a century, it is now making a return in those areas conquered by Nusra and ISIS.

We all know what is happening to the Christians in Syria. Those abducted nuns in Maaloula (the last place in the world where something close to first-century Aramaic is spoken) were not fighting anyone. Christians throughout Syria have been murdered and their churches desecrated. They are fleeing the country in droves.

As this site summarizes...
In many Syrian towns, lawlessness has become the norm. When government forces aren’t present, Muslims have been known to rob churches and kidnap, rape, or even kill Christian women. Innocent bystanders simply making trips to the store have been gunned down.
The persecutors are the Nusra Front, a.k.a. Al Qaeda. Yet Clapper wants us to support Nusra.

More importantly, the Israelis want us to support ISIS:
The risk of empowering an al Qaida affiliate is a small price to pay for Nusra’s contributions on the battlefield, said Jeffrey White, a former senior Defense Intelligence Agency analyst who’s now with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank.
That group is a proven AIPAC front. (Hit the link above for details.)  Also see this fine article in Jacobin.
Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the US, stated in an interview almost a year ago that Israel wants to “let the Sunni evil prevail” over the greater “evil” of Iran and its regional proxies. Speaking in the context of a massacre of Iraqi soldiers, he seemed to argue that Israel should allow the “Islamic State” to win.
ISIS and Nusra have fought "turf wars" at times, but at other times they have worked together so closely that the two groups may, in some regards, be considered one and the same. True, this government says that it is against ISIS -- but we turned against ISIS only when they veered away from our plan and went into Iraq. They were supposed to stay in Syria and oust Bashar Assad.

Though he is hardly an angel, Assad is a secular leader who has protected the rights of minorities in that country. That's why all Syrian Christians support him.

If Assad goes, Al Qaeda and ISIS will take over the entire country. Don't kid yourself. Do not think for one second that there is a third choice. Obama keeps blathering on about giving aid only to "vetted" pro-democracy forces, but that option is pure "fantasy," as Obama himself once admitted. In Syria, either Assad will prevail or Islamic fundamentalism will prevail. If the fundamentalists win, if Nusra wins, non-Sunnis will be forced to convert or die -- and we will be responsible.

Why are we doing this to Syria?

There is only one reason: Israel has demanded it. Israel wants rid of Assad, who, in better days, supported the Palestinian people.

Let us gaze in wonder at the spectacle of it all: This country's support for Israel has reached such a psychotic level that we are willing to countenance the mass murder of Christians. We are willing to support a group that kills women who have committed adultery. To further the Israeli-mandated goal of regime change in Syria, we have created the very jihadists that the Islamophobes tell us to fear.

By the way: Al Jazeera (which Hillary Clinton has praised) is backed by the government of Qatar, which has also funded Nusra and ISIS. In his interview, Abu Muhammad al-Julani denies that Nusra has any funding beyond private donations and "the spoils of war." This is a lie. (Also here.)
The Alawites are currently considered 12er Shi'ites and publicly bill themselves as such but they have not always been considered so. They have certain practices and traditions that scholars trace to the pre-Islamic Kurdish proto-religion that also influenced the Alevis of Turkey and Yazidis of Iraq. The Assad regime has been pushing the Alawite community toward greater Shi'ite orthodoxy (or at least conformity) since the senior Assad's day. Wahabi/Salafi extremists, like ISIS/Da'esh, do not consider them proper Muslims at all but as pagans and/or heretics, to be dealt with as such.
igd, I do understand. At times, I have to over-simplify for my audience.

This is necessary because most Americans don't even know that there is a Sunni-Shiite split within Islam. Most people in this country think of Islam as a monolith. Even President Bush (and we have this from multiple sources) was unaware of the Sunni-Shiite division until after the attack on the World Trade Center.

I'm still flabbergasted by his ignorance...and by OUR ignorance. At the time of the Iranian revolution, there were numerous news articles, television news pieces, and radio pieces which patiently explained the differences between the Shiites and the Sunnis. If Bush (who was a young man at the time) missed all of that, he must have been spectacularly uninterested in the news.

Anyways, from what I've read of the Alawites, I still feel comfortable classifying them as a Shiite offshoot. But I understand that there are differing views. The situation reminds me of the quintessentially American problem of classifying the Mormons. Is it fair to say that Mormonism is an offshoot of Protestantism? I would say so, at least when speaking in very broad terms, but a lot of people would give me an argument.
The Syrian Perspective site says that Iran is sending 20,000 troops to help, and that some have already arrived.

Phil K
I figured you proably were aware of the nuances of the situation but as you point out they can be lost on the larger audience that doesn't have a specialised backround in Islamic/Middle East topics. And like the Mormons, they're sort of "neither fish nor fowl" and cause confusion in the larger community around them.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is 

powered by Blogger. 

Isn't yours?