A friend of mine listened to the sermon given at the Ramadan evening prayer in a village near the north Syria town of Idleeb August 7. The closer one gets to ground level in the Middle East, the crazier things become. Sure, by the time the Western-educated, suit and tie wearing leader sits down with the Western reporter everything sounds calm and cool. But the earth is boiling. Just as the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood blames Israel for a jihadist attack on an Egyptian military base in Sinai — the Egyptian military, more pragmatically, attacked the jihadist camps — the grassroots leaders and rank and file are easily incited into murderous frenzy.
So here are the main points in the Idleeb sermon:
— The preacher never used the word “Syria” or “as-Suriya,” but only as “Bilad ash-Sham.” That’s a jihadist Salafist designation rejecting the existence of nation-states. In other words, “Syria” is merely a province of a future Islamic caliphate. Note: some people dispute this and suggest that Bilad ash-Sham is standard usage nowadays.
–The upheavals in Syria are not to be defined as a just revolution against a local dictatorship but rather as a conspiracy of Iranian Zoroastrians [the pre-Muslim religion of many Iranians], Zionists, France, and America. Here we have hatred not only for Jews and Christians but also Iranians. Yes, a revolutionary Islamist Syria would be anti-Iranian but also anti-everyone else. And by denying that Iranians are even Muslims, the preacher is strongly suggesting that it is right to murder them as apostates. Conspiracy theories lead to further wars. Enemies are not just those with whom you have a territorial or other dispute, but are enemies of God who must be wiped out to the last man, woman, and child. Such people are not going to accept U.S. mediation or patronage, and nothing the Obama Administration could do would ever win them over.
–The closest allies are the Zoroastrians and the Zionists. In contrast with our objective view that Iran sees Israel as an enemy and wants to wipe it out, this Sunni Islamist view is that all of God’s enemies–Jews and Shia Muslims–are aligned against the true religion. They both should be hated and wiped out.
–The Ottoman Empire was a glorious place that protected Muslims and brought them to the doors of Vienna. The Jews, and French, and others try to fool us into thinking of them as oppressors, but these are lies. This is an anti-Arab nationalist view — and even the Brotherhood has never been pro-Ottoman in political terms. Is there some Turkish subsidy involved here, or hope that Turkey will be the protector of a Syrian Islamist state? Or perhaps this is just a reflection of the good old days of the caliphate?
— The Alawites are a completely heretic sect that should be fought. So this group also, which furnishes most of Syria’s rulers, can also be wiped out.
This one preacher doesn’t represent the whole Syrian opposition, of course, as there are also Sunni liberals, Kurdish nationalists and technocratic deserted army officers. Yet the maelstrom of hatred and the madness of religious fanaticism is also everywhere, ready to set off the most brutal massacres. To watch Western naives fool around with this in trying to socially engineer a new Syria is like watching children playing around with high explosives.