WJC ANALYSIS - Reconsidering Political Islam

17 December 2012

By Pinhas Inbari

The latest developments in Syria challenge the validity of the doctrine of Political Islam that has guided Western diplomacy during the 'Arab Spring' and has triggered the fall of secular, pro-Western Arab regimes, which have been replaced by Muslim Brotherhood offshoots. The doctrine rested on the assumption that the West and the Muslim Brotherhood were united against al-Qaeda as their common enemy. Political Islam called for cooperation to defeat al-Qaeda’s brand of terror, which could only be done together with forces within the Islamic world.

Today, however, there are visible cracks in the Obama administration’s belief in the doctrine. President Obama formally proclaimed his support for the Muslim Brotherhood-led coalition of Syrian oppositional forces, headed by Muaz Khatib, as the officially representative body of the Syrian people. And, true to the doctrine, the US president made a distinction between the Brotherhood-led coalition and the group led by the Nusra group affiliated with al-Qaeda, which the United States has classified as a terrorist organization.

While Western diplomats labored to create a coalition that would exclude Salafist elements, which were present in the now defunct Syrian National Council, the Muslim Brotherhood gave its assent and agreed with the West.

At the Doha Conference, Muslim Brotherhood representatives showed a lot of goodwill and excluded al-Qaeda affiliated groups from the new coalition. However, they promptly rejected Obama's distinction between the coalition and al-Qaeda at the 'Friends of Syria' conference in Marrakesh last week and emphasized that the Nusra group is part and parcel of the opposition to Assad and a brother in arms. Worse still, al-Qaeda appears to be the dominant faction among Syrian rebels.

According to al-Quds al-Arabi’s Friday's edition, the emir of the Nusra group is a relative of the notorious al-Qaeda leader in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi from Zarqa, Jordan. Another former leader from Zarqa, Abu Jailabid Tubassi, was of Palestinian heritage, as his name would indicate, while the organization’s full name is 'Jabhat a-Nusra li-Ahl a-Sham' – 'the Front for the rescue of the people of Greater Syria'.

It is likely then that its leaders’ roots in Jordan and their Palestinian heritage, along with the organization’s name, indicate an intention to “liberate” Palestine and impose Salafist rule in Jordan and Lebanon.

Syria itself will then likely become a failed state like Somalia. It appears that Political Islam has brought terrorism to the doorstep to Europe.

 

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