PART I -By Franklin Lamb
'Takfiri' Crimes against Islam in Syria Escalate as Sunnis Join Shia in Repudiation
Reports from across Syria, and increasing coming in from many areas including Aleppo, Qalamoun and Reqaa lay bare massive crimes being perpetrated against the Syrian people in the name of Islam from areas under takfiri control.
A recent German domestic intelligence service annual report described Salafism as the fastest growing Islamic movement in Syria. Based on interviews conducted by this observer recently in Damascus, it is evident that mainstream Salafism, with its emphasis on adherence to the Korans principles and standards for correct behavior towards humanity, is being deeply subverted in the Syrian Arab Republic from forces organized from outside this country.
The Salafi methodology or Salafist movement, historically respected among scholars of Islam, is a school of Islamic thought among Sunni Muslims named after the “Salaf” or “predecessors” among the earliest Muslims, who are widely considered examples of Islamic practice worthy of emulation. Salafism has become widely known among Muslims only since the 1960’s with some attributing this phenomenon is partly a result of the Zionist occupation of Palestine and other projects of Western hegemony which has led to revising some claimed interpretations of Islam more common during periods of history when Islam was threatened. Salafism presents to its followers a literalistic, strict, puritanical interpretation of the Koran. Particularly in the West, and increasingly in Syria, some takfiris espouse violent jihad against the public, even Muslim civilians, as a legitimate expression of defending Islam.
Though Salafis claim to be Sunni Muslims, some scholars this observer interviewed in Damascus’ Omayyad Mosque and Sunni Sheiks based in Damascus are of the view that Salafis are a sui generis sect, and are thus apart from traditional Sunni Muslim Koranic interpretations and practice. One professor of Islamic studies expressed, perhaps a minority view, that Salafis and Wahhabis are essentially the same. The basis of this claim is that Salafis do not acknowledge or follow any of the four schools of thought to which other Sunni Muslims adhere. Rather, they have their own beliefs and laws, their own leaders and social systems, and practicing religion with strict and widely rejected extremist practices as well as committing crimes targeting civilians, including fellow Muslims, for political and financial reasons.
One currently ascendant Salafist group in Syria, among more than 1000 others competing for weapons and fighters, is “Daash”. The word is an acronym with its letters standing for “the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.” Daash appeared on the scene here recently, about a year ago and some local observers believe it arrived via Iraq with large amounts of funding from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey, the latter of which also facilitates its weapons, supplies and access to the north of Syria via Turkish territory. Daash membership figures have recently inflated partly because it currently pays its recruits nearly four times the going gunman wage here or approximately $ 500 per month as it competes with Jabhat al Nusra and others to impose some of its frankly bizarre interpretations of Islam.
Damascus is awash in tales coming in from Daash controlled areas around Aleppo and elsewhere of a sheath full of recent Fatwa’s and orders posted on walls of what is expected of the local Salafist occupied areas. It operates, as recent reports indicate and many of which have been verified by Sunni Islamic scholars and Sheiks from Damascene mosques with brutality to enforce its will on the civilian population. A Sunni law student from Damascus University Faculty of Law compiled over the past few weeks some research on the subject and she reports example of spreading Salafist edits which she labels, “An insane frontal assault on Islam by criminal acts against Muslim and others of the Book.”
On 11/27/13 a young lady arriving at the Dama Rose hotel reported to this observer that currently In parts of Raqaa and Aleppo and other Daash controlled areas if a man from Daash covets something such as someone’s new car or someone’s wife, he must now only say “Allah Akbar” three times and the personal property or the targeted women belongs to him and the man can beat the wife and rape her with impunity. This latest Fatwa obviously causes serious problems within Daash and other affected militia especially in Raqqa and Aleppo. The young lady from a prominent Dasmascene Sunni family reported that Daash members are currently taking gas, oil and bread at will from non-Daash villages for distribution to members of their cult of approximately 5000 members and reportedly growing. Also according to recently televised reports it is now permissible for Daash members to rape any woman who is not Muslim as well as Muslim women who support the Assad government.
Some recently reported Salafist practices spreading in Syria include, but are not limited to the following:
• Females in Daash controlled areas of Aleppo and elsewhere are being prevented from wearing jeans and sweaters and must wear only the Islamic dress Abaya and Barkaa while forbidden from putting on any make-up or now, as of two weeks ago, to even leave their homes without a male escort. Some women in parts of Aleppo and Raqaa now refer to their neighborhoods as Tora Bora, Afghanistan, given the similarities of repression between Taliban and Salafist treatment of women;
• As of November 15, 2013 force is used to prevent smoking and use of arguila (water pipes) by men and women in some villages;
• Some barber shops for men are being shuttered in order to prevent the shortening of hair and ‘modern’ haircuts. Barrettes for young people are also forbidden.
• It is now forbidden in Daash areas to display any sign or advertisements for cosmetics and skin care products in women’s hairdressing shops. Violators are subject to penalties of 70 lashes. Any business that employs women much have two work-day shifts, one for men and a separate one exclusively for female employees;
• No women’s clothing can be displayed in shop windows. Tailors shops must shut to men in the event of the women's presence in the shop until she leaves.The Daash militia has long prevented women from seeking medical attention from male Doctors. Recently Daash has put into place prohibitions against women visiting doctors of either sex and it is not permissible for a woman to wear orthodontic devices such as teeth braces because straight teeth might attract men and in any case their bodies are under the stewardship of their husbands or fathers only.
Franklin Lamb is a recently appointed visiting Professor of International Law at the Faculty of Law, Damascus University for the 2013/14 academic year. Lamb volunteers with the Sabra-Shatila Scholarship Program (sssp-lb.com) and is reachable firstname.lastname@example.org