During a seminar “Islamists and the Arab Revolutions” held by Aljazeera Centre for Studies in Doha, Ahmad Moaz Al Khatib Al Hassani gave the following speech (The speech was broadcasted on Aljazeera Live Channel on September 11th, 2012): This may sound unusual in a seminar, but I would like to ask everyone to stand up and pray. This is in tribute to the Syrian martyrs.
The mighty people of Syria are bleeding whilst the whole world is still watching.
Praise be to Allah. Peace and blessings be upon his prophet Muhammad, his family and his companions:
Syria, almost the sole and the centre of the world, has contributed to ten years of civilization. Islam spread out to the world from there. Its Churches still have the highest reputation on earth. Syria has managed, miraculously, to include all the main Islamic schools of thought. Ghazali, Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn Arabi are from the ancient era. Jamal El-Din Al-Qassimi, Tahir Aljazaeri, Mohib El-Din Al-Khatib and Mohsen Ameen are from the modern era.
Indeed, Syrians differ then meet to make a unique social fabric. Islamic movement in Syria can be classified as three streams:
1 –School-based religious stream
2 – Political stream
3 – Spontaneous public movement
The public movement has indeed leapfrogged the rest in searching for the deep religious structure, embracing the concepts of tolerance, freedom and justice. It uses its rich heritage and some of its not-widely-known religious references as an intellectual and moral basis.
In order to understand the rise of Islamic movements in Syria, it is paramount to appreciate the characteristics of the Syrian people. Syrians are tolerant, devout and open to everyone; they, by nature, reject extremism and injustice; they persevere until they charge.
The current autocratic regime, which appointed itself, as a trustee on the Syrian people could not see how these characteristics have been reflecting on the present situation.
There are negative factors surrounding the streams of Islamic movement and their other partners, most important of which are:
1. Poor political crisis management, largely influenced by different powers. Such powers aim to dominate the Syrian public policy.
2. The media smearing of the Syrian movement, especially the Islamic component, by portraying it as a hotbed of Islamic extremism, terrorism and fundamentalism. The Syrian regime’s media as well as some of the Western media are involved in fabricating this frame-up. There is no ‘fundamental Islamic thinking’ in Syria; it can not succeed and has no future there.
3. The continuous attempts by some Islamic forces, which backed by financial support, to dominate the scene disregarding the characteristics of Islamic mentality for Syrians, which has been crystallized by the scholars of the Levant and their people over the years, and makes a complete civilized integrated system.
4. The radical practices for some secular groups of exploiting their international and media relationships to bypass the reality and portray what happens in a way that satisfies their own desires.
5. Lack of awareness by many Islamic powers that Syria has become an arena for conflicts and settling international disputes, and thus the decision has almost slipped from the hands of both the regime and the Syrian revolutionary movement.
6. It has become quite clear that it is planned for Syria to come out of its crisis with a devastated infrastructure, exhausted social forces, distorted Islamic image and incapacitated powers, which plays in favour of a known regional force [Israel]. Both sides of the crisis fall into the trap; the biggest trap the opposition has fallen into was militarising the revolution, while the biggest mistake the (Syrian) regime has committed was using excessive brutal violence against one of the world’s most civilised people.
7. The arrogant regime left Syrian people with no choice but to take up arms as Syrians were compelled to do so in order to defend their religion, families and properties. The Syrian revolution is not a violent one, Syrian revolutionists are peaceful. I would like to take the occasion and pay tribute to the martyrs of Darayya’s massacre, about which Robert Fisk wrote an unfair article reflecting the regime’s point of view. He ignored the 1,100 innocent people that were killed there and forgot Ghiath Matar, Syria’s great martyr, who used to carry roses and cold water and give to the regime security forces. Giath was rewarded by detention and torture till death (yesterday was the first anniversary of his death on September the 10th, 2011).
8. The regime is trying to destroy the social incubator of the revolution by destroying cities, displacing and impoverishing people, unaware that the mass destruction will hit the regime the hardest. While people can continue their path, the regime will get itself to commit suicide [no matter how strong or lengthy a revolution is it cannot win unless it has a social incubator]. Therefore, supporting the Syrian people socially and financially is important to a large extent.
9. The movement was infected with political infertility due comments by some political oppositions who used insulting and cursing the regime as a platform to gain popularity. If we can give excuse to the behaviour of the people on the ground out of their agony, the political elites are expected to rationalize the street and its leaders in a better way.
On the other hand, there are significant advantages in the Syrian revolutionary movement; some of the most important points are:
1. The enormous sacrifice made by the Syrian people-please allow me to dub the Syrians ‘the bravest people in the world.’ These people have paid a heavy price for their freedom; therefore, they will not back down on their way despite all the pain and agony.
2. Despite all the attempts to divert the events into a sectarian scene, the situation has yet been resilient to be dragged into sectarianism. The crisis is indeed between an authoritarian regime and people longing for freedom. I say it frankly that there are international powers saving no effort to arouse these prejudices in a critical way by talking on and on about minorities and minorities rights. Consequently, now it has become paramount to talk about the rights of the marginalized majority. The revolution does not hold revenge mentality. Instead, it is based on calling for justice and demanding accountability of those who offended. It is the march of freedom against injustice bearing no grudge against a particular group of the Syrian community.
3. Syrian Revolution created an amazing cohesion between all the components of the Syrian people, and highlighted to all the suffering of everyone else. Syrians have felt the deeply-seated pains of the Ummah in its main component that has been marginalised for fifty years [the Sunnis make up the largest holder that incubates all components of the society]. The Syrians also appreciated the concerns of the Christians, the engagement of many of them in the movement, and that distinctive civilized touch, which they add to Syria over years.
The Syrians also felt the pains of the great Kurdish people, which has been mutely suffering for tens of years and manipulated by different international powers, which badly use it to achieve their desires and still a lot of their thinkers avoid falling into this suspicious trap. The Syrian people recognised the existence of all of its components.
4. The Ummah has highlighted fresh political and scholar leaderships, which were not known before. However, their potential is very promising, as they stand up against unprecedented savagery in spite of their limited capabilities.
5. The revolution has changed the typical way of thinking while contributing to the development of the concepts like justice, civil society and citizenship etc, even the genuine patriotism, and I expect those young leaders and intellectuals to formulate an advanced civilised intellect, in the coming few years, which suits the majestic Syria.
6. The active groups on the ground are moving towards more unity, if not probably more coordination and let me send a message to the islamists, Arabs and, in particular, the Syrian communities across the world, that your people are between two choices: either daily slaughters and mass destruction and demolition to your infrastructures or dependency on international resolutions. Your cooperation and support to your people with thought, money and all sorts of strength will make it possible to avoid all of that and build the future free Syria.
7. The Syrian people have got out of the patronage bottle thus they refuse the Iranian, the Russian and the Western patronage and Syrian decisions will only be taken by the Syrian people.
8. Despite quarter a million arrestees, nearly fifty thousand martyrs, over two million internal refugees, almost a million of displaced people outside the country, and tens of thousands of disabilities and injuries.. despite the homelessness and the bereavement.. despite all of that the Syrian people are still calling for freedom.
Last week had special symbolism where the peaceful demonstrations started again all across Syria. The agonies of the people and the revolution are beyond description but their spirits are greater than being stopped. They will continue their way relying on Allah, the patient nation and the resilient people who do not see a option but freedom.
After all of that I would say: We still look for a political solution to save the country more destruction. The dialogue time has expired due to the regime’s procrastination to open its doors to buy itself some time. However, negotiation is a logical, Islamic and political option which should not be overlooked.
Negotiation is not surrendering to the cruelty but it is choosing the lesser of two evils. Only the Syrian people who suffer and the pay the big bill everyday do understand exactly what I mean.
Negotiation is not a rescue to the regime but it is negotiation on its departure with least harm to the country that we love, under international guarantees shared by regional and international sides without patronage. I reiterate here that we do not want nor do we accept destruction or killings.
There are some who wants the Syrians to exterminate each other so that they may intervene and force their predominance and patronage. Finally, the Arab spring is just the beginning and not the end as politics and ruling are only tools and ahead of the islamisists lays a future challenge to present a pioneering civilised Islamic model, which ultimate aim is the human being, that Allah has honoured.
((1. By Al-‘Asr (the time), verily! Man is in loss, except those who believe and do righteous good deeds, and recommend one another to the truth and recommend one another to patience.)) Peace be upon you and so may the mercy of Allah and His blessings.