The Age of the New Takfiris

A Free Syrian Army fighter runs for cover as a Syrian Army tank shell hits a building across a street during clashes in the Salaheddine neighbourhood of central Aleppo, 17 August 2012. (Photo: Reuters - Goran Tomasevic)

By: Ibrahim al-Amin

Published Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Everyone is well aware of the linkage between the Syrian crisis and Lebanon’s complex problems. People only hope that there will be a limit to the negative fallout. But nobody can be sure of that, given the repulsive sectarian and confessional guise in which the Lebanese political and popular divide over Syria increasingly manifests itself.

Things cannot be depicted otherwise. Even when March 14 Christians, or some secularists from the ageing Left (often more ageing in mind than body), come out in support of the Syrian opposition, they do not bring a new shade to the divide. They simply get subsumed within the “political Sunnism” that has been on the rise since the outbreak of the Arab popular uprisings.

This has left no room for rational debate. On Syria we are faced with the same approach which supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood used to employ decades ago: Do you believe in God? If the answer is “no,” then there is no point in debating with an unbeliever, who should be shunned if not slain. If the answer is “yes”– then that’s the end of the discussion too, because believing in God means believing in all his or his prophets’ presumed teachings, and there’s no need to look further or think.

These days, the new takfiris – be they Islamic fundamentalists, liberal fundamentalists or leftist fundamentalists – resort to the same method. Do you support the Syrian regime? If the answer is “yes,” you are sentenced to excommunication if not death. At best you are a shabiha who needs treatment and re-education. And if the answer is “no,” then why question the way it is being fought, or the nature of its opponents, or why they have turned to the enemies of humanity in this region and the world to get rid of it? You must approve. Period.

The problem is not only the total one-sidedness, but the readiness to twist demonstrable truths when necessary. Thus we hear from those aspiring to be installed as leaders that Syria never supported the resistance and only wants to use it as a proxy. Or that Syria was never a state, but always a private estate ruled by the Baath and the Assad family, as testified by everyone from former vice-president Abdul-Halim Khaddam to defected general Manaf Tlass. The truth-twisting extends to holding the regime responsible for every act of killing that takes place in Syria, while insisting that there is no civil war going on, no sectarian conflict or confessional tensions, and no differences between people in rural and urban areas.

To this way of thinking, it is deemed unreasonable even to ask whether the regime still continues to enjoy any public support. The truth that must be made to prevail is that Bashar al-Assad only retains power because of Russian and Iranian backing. This is the line that was spun by opposition groups which are clients of the West, which opted to rely on external backing rather than trying to persuade the rest of the Syrian people of their viewpoint, and some components of which (as recently revealed in The Guardian) are directly in the pay of funds and institutions run by Western governments.

The truth-twisting entails Goebbels-like behavior. When al-Jazeera, for example, or one of its Arab or foreign sister channels, decides that a certain portrayal of Syria is required, it becomes the immutable truth. We are informed of developments that are known in advance, as in the news broadcasts which tell us nightly that another hundred-and-something people were “killed by Syrian regime fire.” No questions can be asked about the accuracy of the figure, or the identity of these victims or the circumstances of their deaths. And if anyone quibbles – citing, for example, the UN monitors – they are told that these are unimportant details, and what matters is the big picture.

Another feature of the takfiri game played by the Syrian regime’s opponents is to portray the raising of any questions about the Syrian opposition as casting aspersions on the morality, identity and goals of the revolution. That’s not how revolutions historically work, we are told: They cannot be questioned about their nature before they triumph. Their leaders cannot be held accountable before they assume state power. The rebels’ behaviour cannot be criticized because it sustains the revolution itself. We must all therefore accept everything that happens as unavoidable, these rogues tell us, and write off what could be described as the losses as the price that must be paid for the “glorious revolution”

It is to this refrain that the Lebanese are being led down into the ever-widening chasm over Syria.

When the regime’s Lebanese opponents think there’s nothing wrong with turning Lebanon into a base for the armed rebels, they entitle Assad’s supporters to think it legitimate to take action in support of the regime inside Lebanon, too. Have they not wondered why there is a campaign of solidarity with Michel Samaha, despite all the evidence of his involvement in a dangerous game? Have they not wondered why the various kidnappers of Syrian citizens are “indulged” by a large proportion of the Lebanese people, despite the odiousness and brutality of their actions?

Ibrahim al-Amin is editor-in-chief of Al-Akhbar.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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