The Syrian uprising in the eyes of Lebanese Islamists

Serene Assir writes: [A]ccording to Syrian Islamists in Tripoli, the uprising has nothing to do with sectarianism. Sheikh Zoheir Abazi arrived in Tripoli from Deraa, the cradle of the Syrian uprising, six months ago. He speaks proudly of his city’s struggle against Assad’s regime, and of the way in which protests in many areas of Syria saw Sunnis, Alawis, Christians, and Druze calling for dignity and freedom together.

“People who say that the revolution is Islamist are wrong. People who say the revolution is turning sectarian are also mistaken,” he said in an interview, adding, “It is a revolution against oppression, backed by values and principles of freedom and humaneness that all people can sympathize with, regardless of their beliefs.”

That is why, Abazi believed, the uprising was so quick to spread across many parts of Syria. The reason why the regime remained in power 11 months into the uprising, he added, was because of the brutal repression it has employed to try and quell dissent.

Abazi also ascribed the rise of sect-based Islamism to the regime’s violent suppression of protests. “It is the regime, led by Ali Baba and his 40 thieves, that invented the mirage of radical Islamism. From the start of the uprising, it accused protesters of being al-Qaeda terrorists,” he said.

“But it isn’t true. Unlike the Lebanese, the Syrians are not a sectarian people,” he added.

But the Syrian uprising’s increased Islamization, fueled by US pawns Saudi Arabia and Qatar, is fast becoming a fait accompli. For lack of better friends in Lebanon, ongoing violence in Syria has also pushed activists like Abazi into forging unlikely alliances with people whose motivations are more sectarian than revolutionary.

Among the latter is Sheikh Zakaria al-Masri, the voice behind weekly calls for post-Friday prayer protests. He is the president of Lebanon’s Islamic Sahwa (Awakening) Council. Al-Masri regularly calls on people attending Friday prayers at the Hamza mosque in Tripoli’s Qebbe district, to take part in protests that kick off as soon as prayers are over.

Al-Masri derives his legitimacy from the pulpit, and focuses on prayer-goers and their faith – less so their politics – to get people onto Tripoli’s streets. A statement issued by the Sahwa Council referred to Assad’s secular Baath Party as “atheist.” It also said the Syrian regime follows Russia and China’s “socialist” and “communist” leads.

The uprising, the statement added, came about when “God Almighty removed from the people their fear.” The people “then decided to start demanding their freedom of belief” through demonstrations sustained over the past 11 months. As such, to the Lebanese Sahwa Council, the Syrian uprising is Islamic in character. [Continue reading…]

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