This is the final final version of your tweet session. I believe it is complete.
#Syria OK guys, I’m starting an important tweet session on #Syria and Islamist/Jihadist fears. I urge you to pay attention.
This may be all over the place because I’m typing as I go, so please do have patience with me. #Syria
As many of you know, I’ve been warning about #Syria becoming a Jihadist magnet for nearly a year now.
For example, I tweeted this some six months ago: bit.ly/PkOI40 - and we may be witnessing it happening. #Syria
What ticks me off is when everything is jumbled into the statement “There are Alqaeda in #Syria”.
So I’m going to try to do what I can do demystify this maze of Islamism & Salafism & Jihadism & and how they relate to #Syria's revolution.
I’ll have to start with “Islamism”, notoriously difficult to define. #Syria
Islamism is a wide spectrum. The acid test for an Islamist is they believe Islam has something to say beyond the personal sphere. #Syria
Non-Islamists (Seculars) are happy enough with Islam being restricted strictly to private life. #Syria
That there is a wide umbrella. There are all sorts of people under that “Islamist” umbrella. But I’ll focus on what’s relevant for #Syria.
What’s urgently relevant for #Syria concerns these titles: Salafi, Jihadi, Alqaeda, Takfiri. Yes, there’re not all one and the same.
Why this is significant is because you have to know a group’s ideology to predict what it will or won’t do. #Syria
Today in #Syria there are both Salafi & non-Salafi Islamists, and there are a few Jihadists. No Alqaeda link is proven and no Takfiris.
A useful generalization is that Islamism is the superset, and Salafis, Jihadis, Alqaeda are successive subsets. #Syria
Salafis are Islamists but not all Islamists are Salafis. #Syria
Jihadis are Salafis but not all Salafis are Jihadis. #Syria
Alqaeda are Jihadi Salafis but not all Jihadi Salafis are Alqaeda. #Syria
So I guess I have to start with Salafism, another word that causes so much confusion. #Syria
I have to distinguish between Salafism as a Sunni school of jurisprudence and as a specific socio-political group. #Syria
As a Sunni school, Salafism is a legitimate “manhaj” (or method) associated mostly with Hanbali jurisprudence. #Syria
As a socio-political group, Salafism refers to certain groups with known leaders, political positions, and spheres of influence. #Syria
When we use “Salafi” today we mostly mean the socio-political group. Specific positions, leaders, a religious hierarchy. #Syria
I think I’ll have to take a step back here and talk about what distinguishes Salafis from other Islamists wrt political vision. #Syria
Islamists generally believe the Prophet established a unique form of government in Medina, an Islamic state. #Syria
Islamists are deeply divided about how much of this “state” is mandated, and how much is open to human interpretation. #Syria
Salafis generally tend towards looking upon the entire early Islamic political experience as religiously mandated. #Syria
(This itself is contradictory since the early Islamic state did not have a religious police for example, but I digress.) #Syria
Most Muslims (and many Islamists) believe that modern democratic instutions are compatible with Islam. #Syria
Salafis however tend to reject democracy since it entails putting Islam to the vote rather than mandating or establishing it. #Syria
So if you speak to an Islamist who rejects democracy he’s probably a Salafi. Not Alqaeda, just Salafi. #Syria
#Eypt's recent experience tells us that even this is flexible. Salafis who for years badmouthed democracy eventually formed parties. #Syria
Now lemme establish how this applies to #Syria specifically. We hear “Jihadi” a lot, it’s actually short for “Jihadi Salafism”.
Salafism itself is deeply divided into mainstream (or government-approved, or Islahi) Salafism and Jihadi Salafism. #Syria
Islahi Salafis wish to bring about their vision through reform ("Islah"), by propagation while coexisting with current regimes. #Syria
Such Salafis have an unspoken win-win with rulers - they can preach, so long they teach people that revolt is a form of corruption. #Syria
That’s how you understand the positions of certain Salafi leaders towards the Arab Spring, Mubarak, and SCAF. #Syria
Diametrically opposite are Jihadi Salafis, who believe that their vision of an Islamic state can only be achieved through making war. #Syria
Salafi Jihadis consider virtually all modern Muslim rulers to be infidels, and consider anyone who works for them to be an infidel. #Syria
For Salafi Jihadis, anyone who willingly serves in Assad’s army, or works directly for him, is under suspicion of having apostatized. #Syria
Salafis (all, not just Jihadi) are notorious for extreme enmity towards what they consider heretical Islamic sects, especially Shias. #Syria
Anti-Shiism fits the agendas of some governments who pour more gas on the fire, allowing overt sectarianism in the name of Salafism. #Syria
So, recapping - Some Muslims are Islamists, some Islamists are Salafi, and some Salafis are Jihadist. Now on to Alqaeda. #Syria
Alqaeda is a Jihadi Salafi organization but it doesn’t have a monopoly there. Not every Jihadi Salafist is an Alqaeda. #Syria
There just isn’t any evidence so far that any group in #Syria has organizational or operational links with Alqaeda.
Many have unfortunately pinned the label “Alqaeda” on anyone raising the black-and-white Islamic flag. Kinda ticks me off. #Syria
The black & white banner has been an Islamic symbol for centuries. Alqaeda uses it, but they don’t own its copyrights. #Syria
The black flag does not equal Alqaeda. It means Islamists. How do you know?Check if they’re raising another flag next to it. #Syria
Jihadi Salafis do not believe in the nation-state and deride the word “watan” (nation) as a “wathan” (idol). #Syria
Therefore Jihadi Salafis will not raise any national flag. If they’re raising #Syria's national flag they’re not Jihadi Salafis.
If they’re raising the black flag only, they may be Jihadi Salafis. (Saying they’re Alqaeda is a speculative jump from there.) #Syria
If they’re raising the black flag next to #Syria's independence flag, they are Islamic-inspired Syrian fighters, but not Jihadi Salafis.
So, recapping, there are Islamic-inspired fighters in #Syria. There are a few Jihadi Salafis. There may be Alqaeda but there’s no proof.
Once again the reason this is important is that to predict what these groups will do or plan strategically you gotta know them. #Syria
So after finishing with all of this I’m going to look back and see which part of this is scary and which is just overblown. #Syria
Of cousre I’m not vindicating Alqaeda but you gotta know them to know what can and cannot be attributed to them. #Syria
Now, if you interpret “Takfiri” more narrowly, then you can say that Salafi Jihadis do have an element of Takfir, and here’s how. #Syria
Some Salafis (not all, mind you) consider Shias and heretic Muslim sects to be infidels; in this specific case they’d be “takfiris”. #Syria
Note that this is a contentious issue even within Alqaeda. Zarqawi for example considered Shias infidels while Al-Zawahiri did not. #Syria
Now I can go into more details and nuances but let’s zoom out and see why this information is so important for #Syria's revolution.
The details I just narrated can help you predict the action of groups, and help you attribute certain actions to certain groups. #Syria
Takfiris for example will kill just about everyone (Algeria’s massacres come to mind), but even Alqaeda aren’t that kinda Takfiris. #Syria
That’s why when #Assad tried to pin the Houla massacre on Alqaeda I saw the BS there. #Syria
It’s probably easy to just look at all Jihadis as criminals but they’re ideologically inspired so you gotta read them right. #Syria
What Alqaeda (or Jihadi Salafis) would do is attack the regime with reckless abandon regardless of civilian casualties. #Syria
(Once again there’s no proof that Alqaeda is in #Syria, just Jihadi Salafi groups, and their presence is tiny and recent.)
Also, Jihadi Salafis may deliberate attack minorities, especially Alawites, with spectacular (suicide) attacks. #Syria
Importantly, Jihadi Salafis would be opportunistic, leaning towards spectacular attacks to give them a bigger size than they have. #Syria
Jihadi Salafis would also use statelessness to bring in recruits from all over the Arab/Muslim worlds. #Syria
Now looking at past few tweets I wonder, if there are established Jihadis in #Syria why didn’t we see suicide attacks on Alawite villages?
All of this leads me to believe that the Jihadi Salafi presence in #Syria is tiny and recent and not firmly established.
Now let me look at the regular Islamic-inspired fighters who aren’t Jihadi Salafis but just devout Syrian Muslims. #Syria
Those “regular” Islamic-inspired fighters will fight the regime along with the #FSA and won’t give trouble just as yet. #Syria
I mean, such Islamic-inspired fighters may raise the black flag; some may badmouth democracy; but won’t go on a Shia killing spree. #Syria
Anyway in light of all this, who should we be afraid of? Which groups would be truly nefarious and destructive to #Syria?
Non-Salafi Islamist fighters may give a hard time afterwards (will resist a secular state) but won’t destroy #Syria's society. Not scary.
Jihadi Salafis, especially non-Syrian, would be scary indeed and may have a deeply negative impact on #Syria's society.
Jihadi Salafis are right now a tiny faction but they can still launch spectacular suicide attacks to show a bigger size. #Syria
To sum up, the #FSA has Islamists, some may be Salafi, but #FSA is neither Alqaeda nor Jihadi Salafis. #Syria
It’s Suhoor time here so I have to take a break, but I’ll be back to discuss what the #FSA should do & what foreign powers should do. #Syria
I’m back for a little while to complete this tweet session coz I’ll probably get too busy to do later. #Syria
I’ve talked about Islamists, Salafis, Jihadis, Alqaeda, Takfiris, and how all of that relates to #Syria & the #FSA.
One thing I missed is that whole “#Syria Jihadis are being funded by KSA & Qatar” issue, which I find rather BS.
As discussed earlier Salafi Jihadis believe that virtually all Muslim leaders are in fact infidels, KSA & Qatar included. #Syria
Salafi Jihadis hate all Muslim rulers, but have a special place for the rulers of the KSA whom they consider to be the worst. #Syria
In fact you can find impassioned diatribes against the KSA in the Salafi Jihadi library here: tawhed.ws (Arabic) #Syria
Basically, “Alqaeda is funded by KSA/Qatar” is a stupid statement. The KSA is Alqaeda’s sworn enemy. #Syria
For this reason I doubt Salafi Jihadis (especially Alqaeda) will ever want to have anything to do with the KSA or Qatar. #Syria
If Salafi Jihadis ever accept KSA help it would be on the basis of an intersection of interests, waiting for to pounce on them too. #Syria
Of course the KSA/Qatar know that nurturing Salafi Jihadis would be like keeping a scorpion for a pet. Eventually it’ll bite you. #Syria
Essentially if KSA & Qatar are funding any rebel party, it would be the #FSA itself rather than the Jihadi Salafis or Alqaeda. #Syria
And if Salafi Jihadis are getting any support from KSA (which I doubt) it would be from individual donors, not the state. #Syria
Finally I want to close this where I started - my year-long warning that #Syria can become a Jihadist magnet...
For #Syria to become a Jihadist magnet two things are required: attraction & opportunity.
The attraction factor isn’t lacking with enough bloody footage to recruit any sufficiently passionate/gullible young Muslim. #Syria
The opportunity however is recent - significant areas beyond regime control so Jihadist groups can slip in. #Syria
In fact, with regime control shrinking, Jihadists can not just slip in but actually set up shop and start operating. #Syria
To avoid this, both the #FSA and the world at large have responsibilities. The FSA must become more organized and centralized. #Syria
To avoid this, both the #FSA and the world at large have responsibilities. The FSA must become more organized and centralized. #Syria
The #FSA should also attempt some form of local governance in liberated areas, even if by the residents themselves. #Syria
Finally the #FSA must make a clear stand against any opportunistic groups attempting to establish their own command in #Syria.
If the #FSA is lousy & disorganized enough, such groups may be able to organize and operate in liberated #Syria.
However if the #FSA organizes and centralizes, and a credible provisional government is formed, things won’t get that bad. #Syria
As for the rest of the world, they must first realize the risks involved if #Syria devolves into a sectarian civil war.
If #Syria devolves into civil war it will spread to Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq; Jordan & Israel will suffer as well.
If #Syria or part of it become a Jihadi Salafi safe haven, the risk won’t be contained to Syria or even the Middle East alone.
I strongly believe that a major factor that made the world intervene in #Libya was to avoid it becoming a Jihadist magnet/safe haven. #Syria
With the mix of regime Migs, Jihadis, FSA gains & chemical weapons, I think a #Libya-style intervention in #Syria can be back on the table.
The worst outcome in #Syria would be a sectarian civil war. The best would be a totally peaceful, #Tahrir-style revolution.
However, right from the start we said that in #Syria we’re not looking for the best option but for the least bad exit.
Let’s not kid ourselves - #Syria under Assad will not have a Tahrir square. That ship as long sailed.
The least we can do, then, is make sure the worst of the worst outcomes (sectarian civil war) is avoided. #Syria