[Marxism] Syria's Islamists

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Feb 21 08:43:14 MST 2012

(The kind of analysis that will never be found among the pro-Assad left.)


Syria's Islamic Movement and the Current Uprising: Political 
Acquiescence, Quietism, and Dissent

Feb 21 2012 by Line Khatib

In one of his recent papers, Steven Heydemann writes that the attempts 
of the forces behind the Syrian uprising and the Syrian National Council 
(SNC)  to define themselves as the pre-eminent nationalist force in the 
country risk backfiring. [1] This is because they face a regime that has 
successfully justified its rule by constantly emphasizing its own 
pan-Arab and nationalist credentials. Effectively therefore, these 
self-definitions stir up precisely the old political sympathies and 
fears that have propped up the Syrian regime for decades. This jousting 
over who will be the champion of the Syrian nation is taking place 
within a context where identity politics have forcefully emerged in the 
country. Their emergence has in turn prompted fears of civil war between 
the different factions and concerns that Islamist extremists will treat 
the uprising as an opportunity to grab the reins of power. The Syrian 
regime is stoking these fears through the official media. The regime 
claims that a large part of the dissenting movement is Islamist-driven 
and has exclusively pro-Sunni aspirations, that many of the 
demonstrators are affiliated with dormant Salafi radicals and Islamist 
terrorist groups, and that a number of attacks and attempts to smuggle 
weapons have already been thwarted.

These claims by the regime are not new. Indeed, Syrians have been 
hearing about the threat of Islamists, portrayed as dominated by a 
single paradigm, since the 1970s. Though these warnings faded in the 
late 1980s and throughout the 1990s due to a manufactured détente with 
prominent Syrian shaykhs, they have tended to re-emerge at every 
critical juncture faced by the regime. For instance, tensions with the 
United States in the aftermath of the latter’s 2003 intervention in Iraq 
and following the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Harriri 
both prompted the Syrian Command to claim that the US was plotting to 
destabilize Syria by arming a number of what were then newly-emerging 
radical Islamists such as Jund al-sham and Ghuraba’ al-Sham. And as 
recently as 9 November 2011, Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem 
stated in a letter sent to the United Nations and the Arab League that 
the United States is funding and enabling Islamist terrorists within Syria.


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