This is not a place that is Syria centric at this time and quite frankly hasn't been for a very long time now.
Assad made statements regarding Turkey and Muslim Brotherhood while failing to mention Syria's long, long history with this group. Why would he do this? Clearly, he engaged in a
propaganda tactic that would be known as "Transfer": Transfer is a technique used in propaganda and advertising. Also known as association, this is a technique of projecting positive or negative qualities (praise or blame) of a person, entity, object, or value (an individual, group, organization, nation, patriotism, etc.) to another in order to make the second more acceptable or to discredit it. It evokes an emotional response, which stimulates the target to identify with recognized authorities
As I'd stated to GC this undoubtedly plays very well to his audience, stimulating them to identify with his authority.
Penny said...As for Assad's statements regarding Muslim Brotherhood, that's a lot of rhetoric for his audience...Has Assad really forgotten about the activities and deeply entrenched history of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria? How could he considering the extensiveness of their involvement in Syria? Considering the reality of Muslim Brotherhood roots in Syria we'd have to conclude troubles with this group came right from with in Syria at the time the destabilzation began in earnest in 2011.
Taking the history a bit further one should look into the British and American ties to this organization.
Those who fail to learn from history....
A Brief History of Syria and the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood
The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood was established around 1945 or 1946 in Damascus, although accounts of its date of formation vary widely.1 The group did not have a distinct ‘hour of birth’, but its establishment marked the formal amalgamation of reformist Islamic political currents and groups that had been operating in Syria since the late 1800s.
Indeed, by the time the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood emerged in the 1940s, Syria had witnessed more than a century of Islamic reform. These reform trends were not isolated from regional Islamic reform debates, but the Syrian movements had a distinctively local flavour, cloaked in the Syrian cultural milieu as well as the political environment of the Ottoman Empire’s last century of existence. Between the First and Second World Wars, out of these movements developed Islamic jamiyat (societies or associations), which were the direct organisational antecedents to the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. This is important, because political organisation theorists note that the experiences and characteristics developed by a group during its formative years shape the way that the group navigates challenges decades later.2
Sufism, that is the mystical practice of Islam, had a major impact on the Brotherhood. Sufism has long played an important role in Sunni religious practice and thought in Syria, with much of the country’s ulama (Islamic scholars) emanating from a Sufi background. Although Sufism declined in Syria in the early twentieth century, it has always enjoyed a prominent place in the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, with many of its founding members hailing from prominent Sufi families and brotherhoods.3 By the time the Brotherhood emerged in the mid-1940s, Sufism in Syria was a modern movement actively engaged in the public sphere, having produced two significant reformist trends in the nineteenth century.4The first Sufi reform movement, led by the Naqshbandiyya-Khalidiyya reformists, highlighted the umma’s deviation from the path of the Sharia and advocated a society-wide return to Islamic orthodoxy. Harnessing the Naqshbandi tradition of activism, advocates such as Shaykh Diya al-Din Khalid advocated for Islam’s engagement in political and social affairs.5 However, the Sufi reform movement was by no means homogenous, and after Shaykh Khalid’s death, disagreement emerged about whether shaykhs should accept government posts. This led to a split in the order’s Damascus leadership.6The second Sufi reform trend, the Akbariyya, responded to the perceived threat that the West posed by partially embracing rationalism, which proponents considered the foundation of the West’s substantial achievements.7 One of the Akbariyya trend’s key figures, Abd al-Qadir al-Jazairi, became celebrated for his embrace of religious tolerance in 1860 after hiding Christians in Damascus’ Christian quarter from angry mobs and negotiating with Muslim notables to prevent the outbreak of communal violence.8 Damascus’ official ulama had up until that point refused to criticise the riots.9 Although Commins argued that al-Jazairi’s actions might reflect a pragmatic effort to avoid French intervention rather than a deep-seated belief in religious harmony, either way the engagement of Sufi intellectuals in the political issues of the day created a precedent for future Islamists.10A third Islamic reform movement emerged in Syria in the 1880s in the country’s Salafiyya movement, which was a competitor to Syria’s Sufis. Many of the adherents of the Salafiyya movement were members of Sufi reform families, reacting to the consolidation of the Ottoman–ulama political alliance in the 1880s.11 Weismann noted significant continuity between the reform movements, arguing that the Sufi reformists ‘played a seminal role in the formulation and dissemination of Salafi ideas’.12 At the time, the regional Salafiyya movement experienced an awakening through the work of Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and his pupil Muhammad Abduh, who argued that the Muslim world’s malaise was caused by the distortion of the original teachings of Islam.13 Its proponents began to use the Quran and the Sunna as their principal sources of guidance, rather than works produced by legal scholars in the many centuries since Islam’s revelation. However, the Salafiyya was by no means an anti-modern movement, with Salafists advocating the use of technology from the West and the acquisition of scientific knowledge.Syria’s Salafists also emphasised the relevance of the works of the fourteenth-century Islamic scholar Taqi al-Din Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah, expending considerable time and energy finding and republishing his work. Although Ibn Taymiyyah and his followers (particularly those in the Wahhabi branch of Islam) are renowned for their intolerance of Sufism and religious minorities, Syria’s Salafists rejected his position,14 which may have reflected the familial ties between Sufis and Salafists in Syria. As a result, many of the country’s early Salafist thinkers believed that Sufism offered Islam an important spiritual element.15 Although the Salafists rejected some elements of Sufi practice, as Lefèvre noted, they ‘stressed the importance of building up healthy relations with religious minorities in Syria as well as with the popular Sufi Sheikhs’.16 An exception to this trend was seen in 1901, when a Salafist on the fringe of the movement, Abd al-Hamid al-Zahrawi, published an essay titled ‘Jurisprudence and Sufism’, which condemned Sufi practices.17 He appeared to be largely alone in his viewpoint, but the work demonstrates some divergence in the message of tolerance advocated by the leading Salafist scholars at the time. The Salafiyya’s ongoing reverence for Ibn Taymiyya also meant that there was always a chance that intolerant ideas would infiltrate the future Brotherhood group.Members of the Syrian Salafiyya movement also engaged in politics. Damascus’ Salafist ulama were closely aligned to the Committee of Union of Progress (CUP) and supported the 1908 Young Turk revolution in the Ottoman Empire, arguing that the new Ottoman constitution was consistent with Islam and resembled the ‘precepts of jurisprudence’.18 This made the Damascene Salafists early proponents of parliamentary political systems. In fact, Jamal al-Din al-Qasimi stood in stark contrast to the Orthodox ulama of the day by arguing that the constitution was both consistent with Sharia and required by Islam.19 As a result, the Salafists’ political activity led to the pragmatic development of close relationships with Arabists and Young Turks in the early 1900s.
The Founding of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria
As the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria emerged in the mid-1940s, it was able to borrow from Syria’s vibrant Sufi and Salafi history for its intellectual foundation, and from the jamiyat, which provided direct organisational precursors. The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood’s first General Supervisor (al-muraqib al-amm), Mustafa al-Sibai, had studied at Egypt’s al-Azhar University and was friends with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood founder, Hassan al-Banna.39 The nature of al-Sibai and al-Banna’s relationship meant that personal links existed between the Syrian and Egyptian Muslim Brotherhoods, but Syria’s unique geopolitical landscape and the distinct background of the group’s founders and the jamiyat limited the tangible significance of the connection.
In contrast to its Egyptian counterpart, Syrian Brotherhood members participated in parliamentary elections from 1947, fielding members of parliament and later ministers.40 Syria’s democratic era was politically tumultuous, characterised by three new constitutions (1950, 1953, 1958)41 and at least eight military coups (as shown in Table 1.1), though none instigated by the Brotherhood. This prompted Lerner to declare in 1958 that the country was ‘a case study of political instability in an area rocked by explosive politics’, while Zisser dubbed it a ‘fragile and very defective parliamentary democracy’.42
|Dates||Political system||Coups||Parliamentary Elections held||Status of Brotherhood|
|1947–49||Democratic||March 1949||July 1947||Minor participant|
|Mar–Aug 1949||Authoritarian||August 1949||-||-|
|Aug 1949–52||Mixed||December 1949||November 1949||Minor participant, cabinet member|
|1954–8||Democratic||-||September 1954||Minor participant|
|December 1961||Minor participant, cabinet member|
The 1947 parliament that included Brotherhood members was elected to a four-year term, but was interrupted two years later when the military officer Husni al-Zaʿim staged the first coup of the period. But al-Zaʿim’s rule lasted only a matter of months; he was assassinated that August in a second coup that reinstated the democratic process with new elections held in November 1949.
Syria’s democratic process was shaken once more in December 1949 when Adib al-Shishakli staged the third coup of the year.43 The parliament sat in the first years after the coup, with parliamentary delegates drafting and enshrining the country’s first post-independence constitution the following year. However, the situation deteriorated significantly in 1951 after al-Shishakli dissolved Syria’s civilian government and arrested the cabinet. That year, the British Minister to Syria William Montagu-Pollock expressed concern that the army ‘has developed an unhealthy appetite for politics’.44 In 1952, al-Shishakli banned political parties (including the Brotherhood) and all opposition newspapers, marking the beginning of military rule. The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood’s influence in this era, however, should not be overstated; the British Embassy noted in 1952 that the Brotherhood ‘though influential, are not politically a strong party’.45Adib al-Shishakli was eventually overthrown in February 1954 by an opposition coalition, with new parliamentary elections held in September the same year. The period between 1954 and 1958 became widely known as Syria’s ‘democratic years’, in which democratic life was restored and left-wing parties including the Baʿth Party, the Communist Party and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party built large followings. Yet democracy was again halted in 1958, when the country’s leaders agreed to merge Syria with Egypt, forming the United Arab Republic (UAR) under the leadership of the Egyptian President, Gamal Abdel Nasser. Syrian Brotherhood members were banned and jailed in this period.
etc., etc., there is more at the link.In September 1961, Syrian officers staged another coup, leading to Syria’s split from the UAR and the resumption of parliamentary life. The Brotherhood achieved its best ever electoral result at the parliamentary elections in December that year, winning ten parliamentary seats, although this made up less than 6 percent of the chamber.46 The conservative People’s Party, many of whose supporters the Brotherhood would later inherit, gained almost 20 percent of seats in the parliament, making it the largest parliamentary party. The following two years were relatively stable, with the exception of two minor coups that prompted cabinet changes. The era came to a close in March 1963 following a coup by the Baʿth Party, which marked the end of Syrian democratic life and the beginning of the regime that remains in power today.
Assad's remarks play well to the 'true believers', undoubtedly, but for those who wish to see a peaceful settlement in the entire region they came across as divisive and misleading.
This should not be a controversial report. Facts are facts and the Muslim Brotherhood has had and still does have a role in Syria, undoubtedly.
Take some time to do research on your own... You might be surprised what you will learn.
I've more information regarding the history of Muslim Brotherhood to share in an upcoming post