Understanding Syrian Uprising: A Muslim Perspective – Adfar Shah


Adfar  Shah

The rotten apple of the Arab Spring-the prolonged Syrian unrest (civil war) against president Basher Al Assad has though assumed the shape of an unending mass uprising but simultaneously is a catch-22 situation especially for the Muslims round the globe. On one hand, the people are shouting for the larger free will, development and revival of human rights (democracy) in the west Asian block but on the other, the Syrian civil war is looked through different positions by Muslims worldwide and Muslim vision on Syrian chaos somewhat seems different on Syria as compared to other conflict ridden Arab States be it their (Muslims particularly non-Arabs) perspectives at the people’s holistic anti-regime movement in Tunisia (back to instability now), wiping out Gaddafi regime in Libya (a country now hostage to tribal militia), ousting of Mubarak in Egypt (in never ending chaos, even freeing the Dictator now),etc,. Primarily because Syrian situation is understood differently by Muslims and to most of them it is more like a waged proxy war (by Syria’s enemies) against the Assad and his people.

Basically the Muslims as a collective identity feel more like victims and well understand the conspiracies against them. In addition to this, the fallout of NATO’s mishandled interventions in Iraq (now the nation of car bomb blasts), Afghanistan (who rules the state there? No idea), Libya (the lost paradise of oil wealth) and West’s especially America’s moral travesties in Afghanistan and its anti-Muslim agenda with continuous interference like intimidating and fostering economic blockade to Iran (America’s wrong number, Ahmadinejad-the man who braved America) just to gain supremacy in the west Asian block and last but not the least their every effort of overthrowing (dying to demolish Syria now) Assad regime to destabilize one more country for their never ceasing neo-colonial craze and hegemony creation in which they succeeded in most of the world states so far.

Though a considerable chunk of the Syrian populace have organized against the current political establishment, which they believe has been authoritative, iron fisted and a regime of repressive state apparatus since Assad’s father, but the current intensity of anti-Assad fever and increased geography of anger in Syria (infiltration of terrorists/rebels into Syria from other destroyed Arab states like Libya) has lead to a growing confusion in the Muslim world for there are certain underlying worth pondering questions. While all of us may strongly recognize the mass protest by Syrian citizens just as protests are part of a democratic way of life. But questions arise on the very genesis of the uprising, reason and legitimacy of the protests, appropriate time for the protests, etc. Also to judge and believe the ongoing protests, utterly as the public opinion against the Syrian government or against the president Assad in totality or against the holistic state policies of the country is not true. One more mystifying thing is to checkout whether it is merely the common man’s attempt for removing the political deadwood and bringing about the desired changes in the Syrian social system or there are certain agencies (war mongers) working behind it simply to oust Assad to create one more American puppet state in the Arab region and to gain access to the petro wealth, that Muslims do not want at any cost. Also apprehensions like what will be the post-Assad Syria like? How will the Syria’s new establishment (rebels actually) maintain law and order if Assad goes? Who will care about the communal harmony and who will stop sectarian clashes that wreaked havoc in other states? Who will control army and who will connect the tribes? Who will care about the Syrian economy (already shattered)? Muslims after seeing the failed state of Libya do not wish to see Syria on post-Gaddafi Libyan model.

Also there is a plethora of confusions about Syrian uprising and the role of so called peace mongers. It is hardly a methodical and nonviolent campaign to achieve a particular goal and involve the use of public pressure thereby persuading the establishment to address mass issues but purely a guerilla war waged, funded and encouraged from outside the Syrian borders. Assad’s neighbours who are believed to be hand in glove with the west are causing the fuss simply to destabilize another country may be out of personal enmity with Assad family, religious ideology, sectarian identity, foreign policy, etc,. One also needs to look into  the crisis, issues and challenges which President Assad has been through and need to see whether it is an untimely blame game against him or not (it is not necessary that Arab Spring has to destabilize every nation for ever)? Though admitting the fact that the prolonged phase of Syrian unrest is now an open disobedience which has turned violent, seeing the present tumultuous scenario and endless killings day in and day out. To a greater extent the reflection of the crisis mishandling on the part of Assad establishment and may be the impact of infamous Arab spring, which has been serving the motivating factor among the resistant forces to reach their political goals (though  it created mess everywhere).

This goes without saying that the current scenario demands a speedy resolution (by Syrian people themselves). However, Muslims who have been witnessing the plight of their fellow Muslims in Iraq or Afghanistan and other states especially after 9/11 have developed a different perception about the west and its so called peace initiatives and measures. One wonders how can the peace be obtained from the war or how can Syria be saved and its people safeguarded by destroying it with air strikes? Muslims take the west thirsty for colonies (neo-colonial craze), dominance, oil loot (by shattering economies) and other resources. They (muslims) realize how Guantanamo and AbuGarib tarnished and abused human dignity and individuality. They witnessed how poor tribals in Af-Pak region were bombed and killed for Taliban Guerilla’s. Muslims believe now that they have nothing more to lose as they have lost it all at the hands of west especially to America. Their identity as a community has been demonized and stereotyped by islamophobia, terrorist labels, their economy shattered, their future kept vulnerable and insecure through threats and intimidation, and they live with a sense of fear and humiliation on a daily basis even in their own countries. They dislike US, they hate NATO’s biased operations and decisions which have thus far proved anti-Muslim only and they dislike west’s detest and despise of Arab political establishments. Though they are critical of the Arab monarchs and condemn the oppression on civilians and equally worry for the prolonged unrest that has badly destroyed Syria. They equally criticize the plight of women (still to be liberated) in Arab States but more than everything hate west’s interference in every internal matter of Muslim states. They also do not know what to do for peace building and how to restore harmony in the lives of chaos ridden Arab public, who are crushed (by their own establishments) every now and then both by state and non-state actors (now even chemical weapons used against civilians-highly condemnable).

Muslims also are in dilemma whether to go for the support of rulers or the public as they adore both but simultaneously dislike the bloody tussle between the both, purely because they feel west is taking advantage of every instability in the Muslim world. A democratic Arab block (a utopia actually) though is the aspiration of every Muslim but they are for a peaceful existence between rulers and the ruled. Also Muslims round the world have a strong distrust against America and its allies, for their interventions are lesser for peace building and more for gaining supremacy. Looking at the various pros and cons of Syrian political structure and planned mass friendly policies and future prospects, It is believed by some of the analysts that President Basher-al-Assad deserves a chance to be listened to by the masses and must be given a specific time frame to fulfil the promises (dictator’s promise: better to forget) he has made to his public, I mean the reforms he has promised (he is still the favourite of many). No doubt he has failed to recognize the immediate need for the fundamental economic and social changes, which could have reduced the worst aching disparity among different sections of the population and subsequently produced affordable livelihood to Syrian populace and prevent that from becoming the youth bulge that is maximum at the moment.

Nonetheless, there is still a hope from him as he is so different from other tyrants like slain Gaddafi, Mubarak (now free-the poor Gaddafi) and other Arab dictators, for he recognizes the legitimacy of protests and demands for functional change, which speaks of his reason and respect to the woes against him (however not now). Earlier he also had shown a positive reconciliation attitude even with those engaged in violent insurgency against the Syrian state by implementing his amnesty powers earlier, which critics thus for have wrongly interpreted as Assad’s bow down and surrender. However they must not ignore even world powers like US is continuously trying to negotiate with Iran and that in no way means America’s retreat or surrender. It is also being argued that Assad will go Gaddafi way but Syrian protesters cannot be compared to NTC’s rebels having a mighty military man force and support. Syrian protest has slowly turned to civil war and general disorder but still armed forces are intact and Assad has a strong public support despite heavy push of foreign insurgents in Syria (from Libya and other neighbouring states) who have mobilized a chunk of Syrian citizens for geopolitical interests. Assad also believes in organized social stability and order unlike others. One more positive aspect is that he has been successful in retaining his popularity among the wider sections of Syrian population primarily because of his foreign policy, which is valued by a majority and his idea of reforms, despite continuing uprising against his stay at office and use of force by his forces (now too much). Though phrases like fierce ‘assault on civilians’, thousands of civilian killings in Syria by Assad forces are merely western media’s rumours. While west gives hype to facts and figures, it hardly reports about the loss of military lives, public property damage, etc, by insurgents, rebels and funded agents. It may also be worth mentioning that the Syrian president has repeatedly been acknowledging that Syria needs time to improve life conditions be it education, building basic institutions for an improved social structure even before democratizing its political establishment. On the other hand, the Syrian president has an uphill task ahead as so far he has not been able to resist the older established sloth ridden system therefore; he needs to offer a certain space to his opponents by inviting them to the dialogue on a common table. This is really sad on Assad’s part that despite desirous of people’s good and talking of reforms, he is yet to announce a date for a referendum on a new constitution. Which actually makes his speeches irrelevant to one and all? Also as per sociological and political observation, the current Syrian protests seem merely a political conspiracy against his regime backed and funded by Zionist elements backed by west and few neighbours of Syria because Assad is believed to be a pro-Palestinian and supporting their independence cause. He has also been targeted by outer forces by breeding internal uprising for his friendly ties with Lebanon and Iran, which he shares borders with besides Iraq, Israel, Jordan and Turkey. Syria’s friendly role in war-torn Iraq, its rehabilitative policies and its support to the Iraqi refugees can be another factor, which prompted evil mongers against the Assad regime.

Also its confrontational rapport with Israel and strategic partnership with Tehran, nourishing Hezbollah, to combat Israel besides a strong Syrian influence in Lebanon through its armed affiliation with Hezbollah like organizations, has actually irked its enemies to destabilize the state politically and lead to a chaotic situation. Hence it is believed that protests and the planned uprising is a vested interest of Assad’s neighbours and few other states, ultimately leading to the present severity in the situation and the president feeling helpless to quell protests peacefully, which is later manipulated differently by America being pro-Israel, spreading the rhetoric of mass killing by Basher al Assad and people round the globe are made to believe it as a disproportionate reaction from the Syrian security forces against protestors.

Some analysts also believe that Syria still needs Assad’s stay in office (to protect Sectarianization and power grab by tribal miltias of Syria) for more political, social and economic renovation and improvement. The current approach of U.S. or E.U. on Syrian situation cannot be called as their breaking silence for innocent Syrian citizens but their hopeless attack on the Assad family, his regime and his Political elite ship. The international community which supports Assad’s ousting, and indirectly infuriates unmindful protesters like they are have done in Libya, should conceptualize and foresee Syria as another Iraq or hostility ridden Afghanistan, or civil war torn Libya where pro-American regimes have added to the chaos (As they have lost it all in Afghanistan) and agony of the general masses by anchoring their roots further for resource loot in spite of safeguarding the common man (actually never their agenda). The last innings of the Arab spring continuing still in Syria is nothing less than a conspiracy and should not destroy the whole west Asia. It will be a disastrous dream to wish regime change in all the Arab states via Arab Spring (as we have seen the plight of regime changed states now) as the clean sweep of political administration in all the unrest hit countries will last merely in to an unplanned and immature revolution shaping up civil war and further disorders only. The violent toppling of Assad regime or attack on Syria by US and its allies may have very unhealthy ramifications upon the Syrian society be it the vulnerable military forces, emergence of a civil war to destroy the basic Syrian social, economic and cultural ethos, social security, breeding of violent regional, sectarian and religious issues and violence what is currently seen in many other Arab states. Its immediate impact may be upon her neighbours like Iran, Iraq, and Turkey and even upon Israel which may lead to a more hostile relation and may be violent between the two states, which will not be a good sign for the general peace in southwest Asia already smashed by Arab Spring. For the interest of his nation, Assad must step down but rebel groups (goons) must not gain power in the country to destroy everything and serve the interests of Syria’s enemies. This is surprising that where United Nations is showing its high for the projected lakhs of killings in Syria but It has been neglecting so many other regions of the world where millions of people have died in political conflicts and armed conflicts have wreaked havoc in the life of the common man, simply because the tyrants/oppressors are big powers and non-Muslim political systems.

Now when the so called world powers (actually democratic tyrants) are preparing for the assault against Syria (still backed by Russia, China and Iran), it remains to be seen how Syrian establishment will react and what will be the fallout on the socio-political front. One thing is clear, US and its allies will again not gain anything (like they were defeated in Afghanistan) except more hatred from Muslims round the world if they repeat this mistake again. Also Syria will be more destroyed and human rights violations and bloodshed will further increase if America attacks Syria.

Now when majority is against the western attack on Syria, Assad should seriously introspect.

He should win the people back and connect to his public. He should not just deliver sermons in his house to his favorites but understand the mass suffering and compensate the victims properly. He should analyze the problem accurately and accept his mistakes but he is too confused at the moment. He should regulate his army and check any human rights violations further. Lastly, instead of fighting or killing the opposition (genuine groups), he should start negotiations for peace building.

(Adfer Rashid Shah, a New Delhi Based Sociologist belongs to Sarojini Naidu Centre for Women Studies (SNCWS) at Jamia Millia Islamia, Central University New Delhi. The views expressed by author are personal. Mail at adfer.syed@gmail.com).

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