Hassan Hassan writes: Over the past few years, various Syrian rebel groups claiming to adhere to an Islamic agenda have found themselves forced to engage in double talk. It has long been recognised among Syria watchers that many of these groups adopted Islamic slogans to obtain funding, without necessarily having such an agenda. But more recently, some of these groups seem to have done the reverse.
Groups such as Ahrar Al Sham, Jaish Al Islam and Jabhat Al Nusra have tried to signal that they have national agendas that would not exclude other sections of Syrian society. But because they also have to consider their constituencies, their rhetoric has become contradictory or distorted.
Last week’s Al Jazeera TV interview with Jabhat Al Nusra’s leader, Abu Mohammed Al Jolani, is a case in point. Al Jolani tried to portray his group as part of the fabric of Syrian society. He even appeared to dress deliberately like a famous character in the popular Syrian soap opera Bab Al Hara, which has been shown on Arab satellite channels for the past few years. The character, Ageed Abu Shihab, is a heroic and brave leader of a neighbourhood in old Damascus during the French occupation of Syria.
Al Jolani clearly wanted to portray himself as a national hero. But his attempt may have backfired. He lost the plot as he went into detail with regards to these key subjects: religious minorities, the group’s affiliation with Al Qaeda and about the Muslim Brotherhood. [Continue reading…]