Saudi Preacher ‘Guides’ Syrian Druze to Wahhabi Salvation
By: Firas Choufi
Published Friday, December 27, 2013
A Saudi preacher has posted images of himself preaching to residents of the Druze villages of Jabal al-Summaq in the Idlib countryside, leading them in prayer and teaching them about Islam – the Wahhabi version of course. Reports coming from Syria’s Idlib day after day show that a fire is smoldering under the ashes of Druze villages.
Fortunately for Jaramana or Suweida in Syria, or even Aley and Hasbaiya in Lebanon, the takfiri groups wreaking havoc in Syria and Iraq cannot hope to impose their absolute control on these Druze-majority regions. However, this does not mean that other Syrian villages, be they Sunni, Shia, Alawi, Christian, or Druze, will not be subjected to the types of deadly attacks that takfiri gangs have been inflicting on the Syrian people. Having said that, it seems that the Druze villages, located in Jabal al-Summaq in the Syrian governorate of Idlib, are the least fortunate.
The validity of the reports, holding that 18 Druze villages in Idlib “had converted to Islam,” was settled when a Said Saad al-Din al-Ghamidi posted on his Twitter and Facebook accounts pictures of a trip he had made to Druze villages in Idlib, including Banabel and Qalb Lawzeh. The pictures show Ghamidi leading worshippers in prayer in a Druze temple.
Incidentally, Ghamdi holds a “doctorate” in Islamic law from a religious university in Saudi Arabia. He hails from the city of Dammam. Like many Saudi clerics, he declares non-Sunni Islamic sects and all those who do not adhere to the Wahhabi brand of Sharia as heretical. Ghamdi also sees Christians as dhimmis – second-class citizens – and opposes allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia.
Ghamidi happens to be one of the leading financiers of takfiri groups in Syria, regularly collecting donations from Saudi Arabia to purchase weapons for the jihadis. On one occasion he tweeted that he had supplied funds to one group to acquire rockets to “pound the Nusairis [derogatory term for Alawis] in Latakia.” Very overtly, Ghamdi posted the details of his trip to Syria through the city of Antioch, and his page shows him traveling between Syria, Turkey, Tunisia, and Saudi legally, through official airports in these countries.
Ghamdi did not stop there. The cleric posted pictures of residents of Druze villages receiving him and his companions in their temples and homes, after they declared they were converting to Islam. Other pictures showed a plot of land donated by a Druze elder to build a mosque at Ghamidi’s request, and the Saudi cleric’s aides taking down names to provide them with food aid packages.
Ghamidi told his followers that 18 Druze villages had been converted to Islam, “despite limited capabilities and the difficulties of this path.” Is this the new norm to be expected in the “liberated” areas?
Since the start of the Syrian crisis, the Druze in Idlib have not borne arms on the side of the Syrian army, or formed local armed committees. On the contrary, the Druze community here has taken a stance of “positive neutrality” vis-à-vis the uprising against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
As opposition Local Coordination Committees and what is left of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) attest in Idlib, the Druze have contributed greatly to the protection of Syrians who came to their villages after being displaced from their villages nearby, including families of the militants who, since the beginning of the crisis, were involved in attacks against Syrian army and security positions.
Their story seems similar to that of the fighters from Suweida who defected with dissident Syrian army Lieutenant Khaldoun Zainuddin, and fought alongside the armed opposition in Deraa for more than two years. But when al-Nusra Front grew powerful, it arrested some and killed others.
This doesn’t mean that the Druze in Idlib have endorsed the uprising or that they oppose it. How can they have genuine attitudes to begin with, being scattered across small villages in a vast geographical area that had quickly fallen into the hands of the FSA? The question becomes only more valid when the FSA-controlled areas have now themselves fallen into the hands of al-Qaeda affiliates like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al-Nusra Front.
This is not the issue anyway. No doubt, images and reports such as the ones involving the Saudi cleric’s feats leave a deep scar on the psyche of every Syrian, Lebanese, and Palestinian, whether they support the forces fighting the takfiris, or whether they are reassessing their options to choose what is best for their country.
The majority of Druze religious and political leaders do not want to comment on the reports about Ghamidi, believing that “this does not help but could hurt,” despite the popular restlessness and collective anxiety felt in Druze areas. Nevertheless, informed Lebanese sources indicate that all mediation efforts with Turkey to pacify Druze villages have failed.
Meanwhile, other Syrian sources state that Turkey, despite its concern over increased takfiri activity along its border, still wants to turn northern Syria into an ethnically pure region, allowing it to isolate Iskenderun and other regions of Syria that Turkey has seized from the Syrian coast.
Letter Declaring Conversion to Islam: Renouncing Esotericism and the Hindu Doctrine of Reincarnation
Ghamidi posted a text he said was a letter sent by the elders of the Druze villages of Jabal al-Summaq nearly a month ago, declaring their conversion to Islam. The handwritten letter stated:
“We…in the villages of the Idlib governorate named herein … attest that there is no god but God … and that Mohammad, his slave and messenger, is the seal of the prophets … We renounce those who falsely attributed us to the cursed reprehensible man Mohammad bin Islamil al-Darazi, and renounce him and his esoteric doctrine, the founder of the Druze creed which we renounce and declare an infidel all those who follow it.”
The letter then declares a conversion to an orthodox brand of Sunni doctrine, with obvious Wahhabi undertones, renouncing the “Hindu” doctrine of reincarnation that the Druze traditionally believe in.
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This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.