The secular liberals in Syria seeking to topple Bashar Assad don’t want their country to be overtaken by Islamists, as has happened in Tunisia, Egypt and to a lesser degree, Libya. The most popular opposition body, the Free Syria Army, consists of mostly-secular defectors from Assad’s military. They do not speak of jihad, Sharia-based governance and usually don’t even have beards.
The umbrella opposition group that formed in Turkey, called the Syrian National Council, is being recognized by the international community as the equivalent of the Libyan Transitional Government, but it is largely influenced by Islamists like the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. There were reports that when the term of its secular president, Burhan Ghalioun, was over, he’d be replaced by someone closely aligned with the U.S.-based Muslim Brotherhood. Luckily, Ghalioun’s time was extended.
It wasn’t that long ago that the Free Syria Army reached an agreement to coordinate with the SNC, but a recent announcement (as reported by the U.S.-based Reform Party of Syria) by the FSA indicates it has broken ranks. The FSA asked Syrians to “discredit their legitimacy” and said that the “SNC members and its executive office headquarters have become a burden to the revolution.”
A Sunni opposition leader named Kamal al-Labwani is more forcefully confronting the Syrian Islamists. He argues that Assad’s crackdown is fueling “jihadist Islamist values” and is working for a common front between secular liberal Sunnis and the 30% of the population that are minorities, specifically the Kurds, Christians, Allawites and Ismailis. These minorities would never support the Islamists.
Al-Labwani is the type of leader we should be throwing our full support behind. He calls for a reformation within Islam and warns that we shouldn’t believe the Islamists’ claims that they are democratic. He says that most Syrians want Islam to “remain a religion, not a political party.” Consider these two recent statements:
“There has been no Islamist democratic country in history, and we do not want to try to be the first.”
“This region will not stabilize without a reformation in Islamic culture that creates an Islam compatible with liberal values and modernism and breaks the totalitarian dogmatic Islamist thinking.”
That’s the type of stuff that gets you branded as an “Islamophobe” by CAIR!
Reuters reports that the Kurds feel left out of the SNC and will be holding a conference in Iraq this month to present the Syrian opposition with their list of demands, primarily a request for an autonomous region in northeast Syria. The Kurds feel that the SNC has marginalized them because of Turkish influence and because of their rivalry with Arab nationalists and Islamists within the body.
There are some other Syria-related developments worth mentioning.
The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood says it has rejected an offer from Iran to control Syria’s government in exchange for allowing Assad to remain as president.
On January 18, the Free Syria Army captured a member of the security forces in Idlib City. The operative provided details of operations planned by the regime to detonate 7 bombs in tin cans, plastic bags and garbage bags between January-18-19 to justify further oppression. The Free Syria Army also recently captured the former head of Air Force security in Homs who was brought out of retirement to fight the rebels.
Imad Ghalioun, a member of parliament representing Homs, has just defected. Earlier this month, the lead inspector for Assad’s Defense Ministry, Mahmoud Hajj Hamid, defected.