Sheikh al-Yaqoubi Elected to the NC—its first non-Brotherhood-aligned religious figure

The Rise of the Sufis

Matthew Barber

by Matthew Barber—This story first appeared on Syria Comment


Newly-elected to the Syrian National Coalition, Sheikh Mohammad al-Yaqoubi is moderate, influential, and ready to go to work


From the beginning of the uprising, mainstream Syrian Sunni ‘ulema—the traditional scholars who have spoken for Islam for centuries and who most Syrians recognize as the quintessential voices for religious interpretation—have been marginalized in the Syrian opposition, as Islamists of Salafi and Muslim Brotherhood persuasion steamrolled their way to dominance in both the SNC and the National Coalition. But an emerging Sufi current within the Syrian resistance could soon provide an alternative to Muslim Brotherhood hegemony and change the dynamics of the political opposition.

Sheikh Muhammad al-Ya’qoubi has just been elected to the National Coalition, the first figure of the Sufi ‘ulema to break through the Islamist exclusivity that has kept them out until now. His appointment will be announced shortly at a National Coalition conference. Along with other Sufi sheikhs, al-Ya’qoubi is heading up efforts to solidify a Sufi bloc of political leadership and nationalist-oriented rebel groups fighting in Syria who give allegiance to the leadership of Sufi ‘ulema. He also supports efforts to train Syrian rebels in Jordan.

Early on in the uprising, the Muslim Brotherhood worked to dominate the political opposition. The SNC primarily consisted of parties loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood. The National Coalition was later created to break this one-sided disparity, but ended up being dominated by others with Muslim Brotherhood connections, as well.

Sheikh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi

Sheikh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi

While this was the reality of the external opposition, an imbalance also formed on the ground inside Syria, as Islamist rebels received more foreign support and rose to prominence. Sheikh al-Ya’qoubi feels that the U.S. made the mistake of “leaving of the ‘Syrian file’ to the regional powers,” which allowed this trend to intensify as Gulf powers targeted Islamist groups with their aid. Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been primarily involved in arming rebels, but the Saudis recently pulled back their level of support. They have an ambivalent relationship with Islamist movements; on the one hand, they support the proliferation of one of the most extreme and anti-Sufi forms of Islam, Wahhabism, throughout the Muslim world. Simultaneously, they fear Islamist movements such as the MB who pose a political threat to monarchy. As the character of the militarized opposition has evolved increasingly toward Islamism, with a recent climax of Jabhat al-Nusra announcing allegiance to al-Qaida and declaring an Islamic state in Syria, reports suggested that the Saudis decided to cut off support they had been offering.

Declining aid, however, has ironically resulted in the end of much of the support that nationalist-oriented rebels were receiving, and many rebels have complained that the remaining contributions from Qatar are reaching only the Islamist fighters. Continuing trends solidifying Islamist domination of both the political and military oppositions have further weakened the desire of the international community for intervention in Syria, though the fact that several regions are now controlled by al-Qaida-linked groups has prompted some to call for the preparation of a drone strategy for Syria, prompting fears that it will end up looking like another Afghanistan.

Sheikh Muhammad al-Ya’qoubi’s entrance into the political opposition marks a development running counter to the dominant Islamist trend. Al-Ya’qoubi is respected as one of the leading scholars and Sufi clerics in Syria, and has been ranked as the second-most influential Muslim religious figure of the country. The brand of Islam he represents is expressed in a statement of sympathy he issued following the Boston Bombing. He studied in the West and is fluent in English and Swedish.

Traditional ‘ulema like Sheikh al-Ya’qoubi served for centuries as the interpreters of Islamic sources and traditions, but after the fall of the last Islamic empire, the process of modernization that accompanied the rise of the nation state presented a challenge to their role of traditional authority. The erosion of their power was further aggravated by the emergence of Islamist movements like the Muslim Brotherhood who introduced new interpretations of Islamic texts, contrary to the classical traditions that had existed for centuries.

Under the Ba’athists, some of Syria’s ‘ulema became seen as coopted figures who stayed close to the regime and lent it legitimacy. Others however, remained at arm’s length from the regime, and when the uprising began, they asserted their criticism of it, as did Sheikh al-Ya’qoubi. In addition to his widespread recognition among Syria’s majority Sunni Muslims, his credibility is bolstered by being the cleric who issued the first fatwa against Bashar al-Assad, in July of 2011.

After publically criticizing the regime’s violence against demonstrators in two sermons delivered at mosques in April and May 2011, he fled Syria and issued his fatwa against the regime. Sheikh al-Ya’qoubi represents the kind of moderate, traditional Islam that most Syrians are familiar with, the Islam challenged by both the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists. Though taking an unambiguous stance against the regime’s violence, injustice, and terror, he also continues to exert his influence encouraging rebels to avoid terrorism through fatwas condemning tactics such as car-bombings, kidnapping, landmines, the killing of prisoners, and violence against non-combatants politically aligned with the regime. Sheikh al-Ya’qoubi has combatted the fatwas of extremist clerics who have called for the targeted sectarian killing of Alawite women and children by issuing his own fatwas prohibiting the killing of civilians of the Alawite minority. He maintains a very clear position defending the rights of all minorities, including those condemned by extremists as heterodox.

Sheikh al-Ya’qoubi also differs with the Islamist agenda to “Islamize” Syria’s laws. The Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist groups promote a kind of activism that seeks to implement a greater degree of Islamic law in the state. The growing use of “Islamic law” by Jabhat al-Nusra and other Islamist groups in territory controlled by rebels likely prompted the announcement by Mu’az al-Khatib of an effort to introduce a “code” of Islamic law sanctioned by the opposition that the rebels could implement—an apparent attempt to assuage this desire manifesting in a stampede toward “shari’a” while ensuring that such a law would be relatively moderate. Where does Sheikh al-Ya’qoubi stand on this issue? He thinks Syria’s current family laws are just fine, and are already sufficiently compatible with the shari’a. He also believes that legal reform should not be pursued before a constitutionally-based committee can be formed which would tackle any needed changes, after the regime has fallen and a new Syrian government has been created.

Despite being well-known in Syria and playing an important role in the history of the uprising, Sheikh al-Ya’qoubi and other Sufi ‘ulema like him have been excluded from the political opposition. Desperation following the slow, groaning crisis of the opposition’s ineffectiveness, as well as fears that figures like al-Ya’qoubi may band together and form an alternative opposition have led to his appointment to the National Coalition, following a letter he drafted to Mu’az al-Khatib, signed by 25 Sufi sheikhs and containing an ultimatum about the need for their participation in the political process.

One obvious question is: what level of real influence will the Sheikh have? Does his participation mark the beginning of a trend, or will he merely be the NC’s token member of the ‘ulema?

In addition to having already played an important role throughout the uprising, Sheikh al-Ya’qoubi and other Sufi leaders have been building influence lately, working together for about six months to form an umbrella organization for rebel groups comprised of Sunnis and Sufis aligned with Syria’s mainstream values, rather than Islamist agendas. The organization is called the Movement for Building Civilization. He and his peers have produced a charter document which rebels groups can sign, pledging agreement with a set of foundational principles, including:

  1. Removing the regime while not destroying the state—protecting public institutions;
  2. The rejection of revenge, retaliation, and execution during the uprising, keeping the trials of war criminals for after the collapse of the regime and the establishment of a new government;
  3. After the collapse of the regime, rebel groups should cease to carry arms and their members should return to civilian life or join the national army;
  4. All ethnic and religious communities are to be defended as equal citizens under the law;
  5. No ethnic or religious group is to be held responsible for the crimes of the regime;
  6. A future Syrian government must operate according to a separation of judicial, legislative, and executive powers;
  7. The future government must be a democracy of political multiplicity and the 1950 Constitution should be in effect during the interim period until a new parliament is elected and a new constitution is agreed upon.

Many young sheikhs who joined the Syrian uprising are frustrated with their lack of options regarding conservative political movements to be aligned with. The three main options are Salafis, Hezb al-Tahrir, and Muslim Brotherhood movements, none of which well-represent mainstream Syrian Sunnis who look for the legitimacy of ‘ulema leadership. This concern was a primary motivation for the creation of the Movement for Building Civilization. Al-Ya’qoubi and the sheikhs he works with are in contact with over 200 rebel groups who consult them regarding principles, goals, and methods, but many of these groups are disillusioned with the inability of the Sufi and ‘ulema leadership to offer them any kind of practical monetary support. Lacking funding, groups that would like to follow moderate figures of the ‘ulema will remain vulnerable to recruitment by Islamist forces.

The formation of a Sufi bloc within the opposition could provide an alternative to the Muslim Brotherhood, one that would represent far greater numbers of Syrians. Sheikh Ya’qoubi has stated that he supports a government in which the Muslim Brotherhood can operate, but that he opposes a monopoly of any one faction. He told me in a recent conversation: “We may have to deal with an Ikhwaani prime minister in the future Syria. That is democracy. But the real question is: will the government be of all one color, or will it be inclusive?”

There’s no question about which demographic will win this war: the next power in Syria will be Sunni. And the question goes beyond “how big” a Sunni win will occur. The real question is: which Sunni group’s brand of Islam will define the political paradigm of the new state? The influence of ‘ulema who respect Syria’s diversity, promote a tolerant social sphere, and support an inclusive government structure will be extremely important in the nation’s future, and the international community should be in conversation with them.


Addendum: see the following post for an update on how Yaqoubi, though confirmed as a new member of the NC, subsequently had his appointment reversed at an opposition conference in Istanbul.

Comments (454)

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1. Citizen said:

Mr. Barber!
You shed light on the people who Syrian people do not know them !Who is this Ya’qubi? Is he Pakistani? Syrians do not like canned food!!!

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May 22nd, 2013, 7:02 pm


2. Citizen said:

Syria’s failure to lose
Syria has surprised everyone. They were supposed to have collapsed long ago. They didn’t, far from it. There is every indication that the Syrian government is winning what really isn’t a civil war.


Israel continually talks of the threat to Tel Aviv posed by Syrian missile systems. However, the Russian Iskander system places a price tag on Israel’s actions that Israel may not be willing to pay.

The Iskandar can not only take out Patriot III batteries but can quickly cripple Israel’s armored forces and fortification on the Golan Heights.

The Iskandar is powerful, extremely accurate and impossible to stop.

Iskandar batteries, protected by S 300 air defense systems, successfully counter Israel’s air defenses and leave both armor and fortification totally vulnerable,

The most important aspect, of course, is that these are purely defensive systems.


It is increasingly obvious that a political settlement in Syria is going to be needed. Were it not for the interference of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Israel, and the plotting of the NATO powers, such a settlement conference would be underway.

Too many have died and each death benefits only: Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia and NATO.

What is broadly recognized is this fact; the rebel forces as they are currently configured, were they to triumph, would lead Syria into a decade of civil war, one where the current body-count, be it 50,000 or 100,000 would seem insignificant.

One might also ask why Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and their friends would back forces closely aligned with terrorism and extremism.


There is little doubt that a globalist agenda is behind the war on Syria. This is only a stage in a broader war on Iran, followed by subjugation of Afghanistan (good luck with that) and a forced collapse of Pakistan.

The rationale, of course, involves oil and gas. As the planet has proven to be awash with oil and gas reserves, enough for centuries, particularly if alternative energy technologies continue to be suppressed, only total control of supply, delivery and active and criminal manipulation of market pricing structures can offer an adequate return.

Control of world currencies, the Federal Reserve System in the US, the failed financial system of the European Union and the IMF are required.

The methodologies, each representing an attack on the citizenry of the world, driven by outmoded Malthusianistic principles, are intended to deprive billions of basic human needs and, of course, any human rights as well.

It may all be turned around in Syria if the world finally awakens to the real threat.

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May 22nd, 2013, 7:15 pm


3. Tara said:

Again Why is the mix massages?  I do not get it.  If The US supporting The butcher staying in power and having a pseudo-dialogue with its victims, why is the beacon of freedom bothering?  

Exclusive: U.S. To Bring Chemical Weapons Witnesses Out Of Syria
by Josh Rogin May 22, 2013 5:18 PM EDT
The State Department is working behind the scenes to identify medical professionals who have evidence of chemical weapons use in Syria and is planning to help move them out of the country to meet with United Nations investigators in Turkey, officials tell The Daily Beast.

The previously undisclosed effort was authorized by the White House, and is now being prepared by the State Department in conjunction with Syrian non-governmental organizations they have been working with on the ground, two administration officials said. The U.N. team tasked with investigating alleged uses of chemical weapons inside Syria has not been able to enter the country because of a dispute over access with the regime of Bashar al Assad, so the State Department is bringing the medical professionals and physiological samples taken from victims of the attacks to them.

Read more:

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May 22nd, 2013, 7:33 pm


4. ghufran said:

I do not how long it will take for some Syrians to understand that foreign countries could not care less if Syria is ruled by a monkey or a lion, what foreign nations want is to protect their interest and help bring money and investment to their countries even if the price is destroying Syria, look at what Erdo wants to do after all of that harsh rhetoric:
صحيفة ‘الصباح’ التركية المقربة من حكومة السيد رجب طيب اردوغان، احد ابرز الصقور في معسكر المعارضة للرئيس بشار الاسد ونظامه، نشرت امس تفاصيل خطة عمل تتبناها هذه الحكومة وتريدها ان تكون خريطة طريق تتصدر جدول اعمال مؤتمر جنيف المقبل. وابرز افكار هذه الخطة تسليم الرئيس الاسد صلاحياته كاملة لحكومة انتقالية يشكلها النظام والمعارضة، مقابل السماح له، اي الرئيس الاسد، بالبقاء في سورية وخوض الانتخابات الرئاسية المقبلة في منتصف العام المقبل.
هذه الخطة جرى التوصل اليها وصياغة تفاصيلها بعد زيارة السيد اردوغان الى واشنطن، ولقائه مع الرئيس باراك اوباما، وسيطير بها السيد اردوغان الى موسكو الاسبوع المقبل، وطار بها السيد احمد داوود اوغلو مهندس سياسته الخارجية الى مؤتمر اصدقاء سورية في عمان.
ما يؤكد هذه الخطة ان الحكومة التركية لم تنفها مطلقا، بل لا نبالغ اذا قلنا انها اقدمت على تسريبها متعمدة، والأمر الثاني ان الهدف من انعقاد مؤتمر اصدقاء سورية في العاصمة الاردنية هو الاعداد لمؤتمر جنيف الثاني، وفك الغموض المتعلق بنتائج وقرارات اجتماع جنيف الاول. والمقصود هنا مستقبل الرئيس السوري ودوره في التسوية السياسية.
الفارق شاسع بين اعلان ابوظبي الذي صدر عن اجتماع وزراء خارجية ست دول عربية واسلامية (مصر، السعودية، قطر، الاردن، الامارات وتركيا) في 14 من الشهر الحالي، وهو الاعلان الذي اكد انه لا مكان للرئيس الاسد في سورية المستقبل. وهو تراجع اسرع مما توقعه اكثر المتفائلين في دمشق نفسها.
اليوم يقولون ببقاء الرئيس الاسد بلا صلاحيات في القصر، وان يخوض الانتخابات، وغدا يحتفظ ببعضها، وبعد غد كلها، فالعرض التركي هو ارضية اولية للتفاوض، قبل واثناء وبعد مؤتمر جنيف الثاني، ألم يبدأوا الأزمة بالتأكيد مرارا ان الرئيس السوري رئيس غير شرعي، وان ايامه في السلطة معدودة، وتسابق البعض منهم على توفير ملاذات آمنة له ولعائلته.
Erdo came back from the US convinced that Obama is not interested in supporting any military action against damascus as long as israel is not attacked, then Erdo announced that a no fly zone requires a UNSC resolution knwoing very well that Russia will veto such a resolution.
(AB Atwan and other sources)

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May 22nd, 2013, 8:44 pm


5. ghufran said:

It looks like there are leftists in the Lebanese militias fighting along with the Syrian army, one of them is a sunni from Sayda:
صالح الصباغ ، الذي شيع مساء اليوم إلى مقبرة آل عسيران في صيدا بعد أن منعهم مسلحو أحمد الأسير من دفنه في مقبرة “صيدا الجديدة” باعتباره “سنيا يقاتل تحت راية حزب شيعي”! وكان على رأس مشيعي الصباغ المهندس أسامة سعد، رئيس التنظيم الشعبي الناصري وعدد من مسؤولي حزب الله في الجنوب.
when I asked one of my Lebanese friends how is that possible, he said that many Lebanese believe that if Assad falls and Syria is lost to Al-Qaida they will be next, another guy told me a number of stories about how Syrian rebel militias earned the animosity of many Lebanese, shia and sunni, after acting like thugs and thieves and bombing civilian areas in Lebanon at random.
Take this post as an invitation to seek the truth, you do not have to support my position.

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May 22nd, 2013, 9:02 pm


6. mjabali said:

Sufi Islam in Syria is losing the battle. Sunnis are turning more to Salafism instead of practicing their Sufi traditions. Damascus and Alleppo are know Sufi centers. The Syriancountryside is less sufi and more Salafi these days.

The Sunni Sheikhs are turning more radical than Sufi. Also a major factor here is the known hatred the Saudis and Qataris have for the Sufis.

Sufism in the whole middle east is receding in front of the Salafi Tsunami.

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May 22nd, 2013, 9:13 pm


7. revenire said:

Ghufran many Lebanese Sunni are fighting against the terrorists in Syria.

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May 22nd, 2013, 9:38 pm


8. ann said:

British politician compares London machete attack to U.K. policy in Syria – May 22, 2013

This sickening atrocity in London is exactly what we are paying the same kind of people to do in Syria
— George Galloway (@georgegalloway) May 22, 2013

Galloway, who opposes his country’s decision to support some rebel groups in Syria, seems to be arguing that those rebels are akin to the machete attackers. While it’s not clear why the two men killed a third in the London neighborhood of Woolwich, one of them later said, with blood still on his hands, “The only reasons we have done this is because Muslims are dying every day. This British soldier is an eye for an eye a tooth for tooth.”

Since making his comment, Galloway has been embroiled in a number of arguments on Twitter over the statement. He has dug in, saying that both Syrian rebels and the Woolwich attackers are “Al Qaeda followers. Sickening murderers. The kind we arm and pay for in Syria.” When one Twitter user responded, “I don’t think we go up to random people, run them over, then behead them,” Galloway shot back, “no, we pay Al Qaeda to do so. In Syria.”


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May 22nd, 2013, 10:02 pm


9. revenire said:

S-300 inspiration…

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May 22nd, 2013, 10:11 pm


10. ann said:

‘An eye for an eye’: British soldier beheaded, killed in barbaric machete attack (PHOTOS, VIDEO) – May 22, 2013

In broad daylight two men in their mid-20s attacked a man dressed in a military uniform killing him and apparently trying to behead him while shouting “GOD IS GREATEST” in Arabic, according to witnesses

A man believed to be soldier has been BEHEADED in a barbaric attack by two men on a street outside Woolwich army barracks in South East London. In the shocking scene, one of the killers addressed witnesses saying “you will never be safe.”

In broad daylight two men in their mid-20s attacked a man dressed in a military uniform killing him and apparently trying to BEHEAD him while shouting “God is greatest” in Arabic, according to witnesses.

Shocking footage recorded by witnesses during the carnage and made public by ITV shows a man holding a MEAT CLEAVER with blood on his hands using jihadist rhetoric to justify the violence.

“We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you,” the attacker said, with the body of the victim lying just yards away. “The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying every day.”

“This British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”

“I apologize that women have had to witness this today, but in our land our women have to see the same,” the suspect, clad in a dark hooded jacket and a black hat, continued in the video. “You people will never be safe. Remove your government, they don’t care about you.”


One of the witness to the tragedy, called James and who was one of the first people to call the police, told LBC radio that initially they thought the two men were trying to help the one who was on the ground.

“We thought the two guys were helping him. We then saw two kitchen knives like you would find in a butchers shop, they were hacking at this poor guy literally. We thought they were trying to remove organs or something. One of the black guys then shouted to me and my partner to get in the car. I then moved the car down the road and dialed 999.”

James continued that there was no way a human could take what they did to him. They then dragged the dead man into the middle of the road and then stood on the pavement waving the gun about, as if they were proud of what they had done.


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May 22nd, 2013, 10:27 pm


11. Ghufran said:

This is a government that does not give a dam..about its citizens:
First they increase the price of natural gas by 150% then this:
أصدر مصرف سورية المركزي اليوم الأربعاء قراراً يلزم جميع شركات الصرافة المرخصة صرف جميع الحوالات الخارجية الواردة للمواطنين التي لا تزيد قيمتها عن 5000 دولار بالليرة السورية حصراً.
وشمل القرار جميع الحوالات الواردة إلى سورية بالعملات الأجنبية بـ “مبرر شخصي غير تجاري” بغض النظر عن قيمتها، وكذلك الحوالات التي تزيد عن القيمة المحددة 5000 دولار إذا لم تكن مخصصة لتمويل الأغراض التجارية حصراً، وذلك حسبما ذكرت صحيفة تشرين الحكومية.
كما نص القرار على أن “يتم شراء القطع الأجنبي المبين في الحوالة على أساس سعر الصرف المحدد لهذه الغاية في نشرة وسطي أسعار الصرف الخاصة بمؤسسات الصرافة الصادرة عن مصرف سورية المركزي والسارية بتاريخ تنفيذ الحوالة”.
ويتباين سعر صرف العملات الأجنبية بين نشرة المصرف المركزي والسوق السوداء بشكل كبير في ظل الأزمة التي تمر بها سورية، ففي حين لا يتجاوز سعر صرف الدولار 99 ليرة سورية حسب النشرة الرسمية الصادرة عن المصرف المركزي يصل سعره في السوق السوداء إلى 143 ليرة سورية للدولار الواحد، وذلك حسب أسعار بيعه صباح اليوم، ما يعني أن المواطن سيخسر جزءاً كبيراً من قيمة حوالته عند بيعها “مجبراً” بالليرة السورية حسب الأسعار التي يحددها المركزي.

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May 22nd, 2013, 10:29 pm


12. Dawoud said:

Matthew Barber

Dear Mr. Barber:

First, thanks for making us (the SC readers/commentators) the first recipients of this article! Second, the 7 points are extremely excellent, but I am afraid that it’s too late. For example, the Syrian state has already been destroyed!
I am well-known here on SC as the most vicious anti-Bashar/regime commentator. But, the reality was that until March of 2011, although I was never an admirer of any Arab dictatorial regime (including Bashar’s), I was in many ways a defender of the Syrian state. I wrote and spoke to warn against the neo-cons’ “clean break,” and I resented any attempts to impose anything on Syrians. My attitude toward Syria was similar to my current attitude toward Qatar: I respect their declared and actual support for the oppressed/occupied Arabs in Palestine/Lebanon/etc., and I will criticize them only when they encounter popular domestic demonstrations and they choose to repress it by force. I turned against the Syrian regime when I saw the pictures of Hamza al-Khateeb and the Syrian security forces shooting at unarmed peaceful demonstrators in front of al-Omari mosque in Der’ah. Bashar has decided that he is Syria and Syria is him. His actual motto, whether he uttered it or not (although his supporters have been saying it all the time): “either Bashar or No one,” “Either Bashar or we burn the country” اما بشار او لا حد, أما بشار او بنحرق البلد

Yes, they have destroyed the country and it’s too late to save it. Joshua Landis’ last post was about ethnic-cleansing in order to create a possible Alawi escape/refuge state for Bashar. The Kurds were yesterday arguing with Iraqi Kurdistan’s leader, Barazani, on who should represent Syria’s Kurds, etc……………Landis published a post a few months ago on how the Syrian state was disappearing……………
I am afraid that it’s too late to have a viable Syrian state, regardless of who would win-and I think that Bashar will not be able to stay in power in the Syria that we now know. This Syria might have ceased to exit a few months ago.
The Arab states in the Middle East (Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and Israel/Palestine) may now be entering a new period similar to the Sykes-Picot reconstruction, except that it’s not dictated by occupying European colonialists, but rather by the evils of Arabs’ religious sectarianism (the current involvement of the Lebanese Shia party in the fighting in al-Qusyre with Iranian support only adds to this sectarian tension) and leaders’ struggle form power and wealth at the expense of their disadvantaged and mostly youthful subjects.Iraq is already becoming the next Syria! Israel is powerful and will not give up anything to the Palestinians, unless the United State forces it to do so (good luck with that, AIPAC!). A two-state solution has long seized to be a viable solution, given Israel’s colonization. Soon, Palestinians will realize that they, as the star of the “Palestinian papers” Erekat said at the U.N. two days ago, live in a de facto apartheid state. They will start a revolution to demand equal rights, including the right of return……Israel is defeating itself from within………………
The region will be undergoing a decade or two of upheavals and unrest! Saving a viable Syrian state is only one unattainable goal in the future. Stay tuned!


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May 22nd, 2013, 10:34 pm


13. Dolly Buster said:

Sufism is innovation because there is no word like Suf in arabic.

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May 22nd, 2013, 10:38 pm


14. Dolly Buster said:

2. Citizen said:

Syria’s failure to lose
Syria has surprised everyone. They were supposed to have collapsed long ago.

There are many other examples. Libya was also hailed as “a tough nut to crack, surprising everyone!”
However: if you wait long enough, then the victorious Colonel Qaddafi will be found in a toilet somewhere.

The exact same pattern will be repeated with Putin’s shoeshine boy Bashar.

Afterwards: during the war in Iran in 2015, you will probably be saying: “This time, it is different. Iran is not Syria.”

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May 22nd, 2013, 10:57 pm


15. Akbar Palace said:

Israel is powerful and will not give up anything to the Palestinians…


Didn’t Israel give back Gaza and large parts of the West Bank? What did Egypt and Jordan give back to the Palestinians when they controlled these respective territories?

So yes, if you’re going to keep crying about Palestine, you may want to tell us, BTW, where the border is between Israel and Palestine.

Free Willy!

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May 22nd, 2013, 11:24 pm


16. ann said:

Unedited Version of London Woolwich Murderer Interview + 2nd Video By Another Bystander

The original speech was censored by British press
[makes you wonder who’s in charge of censorship 😉 ]

Video for the item posted earlier by golem:

The edited censored item was posted here:

A chilling video has just been broadcast by ITV apparently showing one of the killers speaking to a video camera as blood drips from his hands immediately after beheading a local soldier.

First video:

“There are many, many ayah throughout the Koran [referring to religious verses] that says we must fight them as they fight us, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. I apologize that women had to witness this today but in our land women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your government, they don’t care about you.”

Second video:

“You think David Cameron will get stuck in the street, when we start busting our guns? you think your politicians are gonna die? not it’s gonna be the average like you, and your children. so get rid of them. tell them to bring our troops back, so you can all live in peace..”

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May 22nd, 2013, 11:30 pm


17. mjabali said:

Dolly buster:

The word Sufism comes from the word Safa, i.e tranquility. Sufi mean the one who attains tranquility, or tranquility is bestowed on him. If you think the word Sufi comes from Suf, i.e wool, I advise you to up your information.

Sufi is a verb and not a noun as you are thinking. It is: فعل ماضي مبني للمجهول

Would care enlightening us with why you do not see Sufism as a real movement?

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May 23rd, 2013, 12:20 am


18. ghufran said:

Is Kerry making another concession?
أشار مصدر رسمي في عمان لصحيفة “الحياة” إلى أن “وزراء دول مجموعة “أصدقاء سوريا” خصوصا وزير الخارجية الأميركي جون كيري سيطلبون من وفد المعارضة اقناع فصائل المعارضة كافة بقبول مبدأ انعقاد جنيف – 2″.
وأوضحت الصحيفة ان “كيري سيبلغ الوفد ان رحيل الرئيس السوري بشار الاسد لن يتم سوى بعد تشكيل حكومة انتقالية كاملة الصلاحيات، ما يعني ان تخلي الأسد عن السلطة سيكون تدريجياً”.

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May 23rd, 2013, 12:20 am


19. The Hunchbacked Mufti of Homs said:

14. DOLLY BUSTER said:

“Putin’s shoeshine boy, Bashar”

That’s beautiful, Dolly…

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May 23rd, 2013, 1:37 am


20. Juergen said:


Is Sheikh al Yaqoubi following the Naqshibandi order?

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May 23rd, 2013, 2:42 am


21. Dawoud said:

15. A.P.

AP: “Didn’t Israel give back Gaza and large parts of the West Bank?”

My answer: No, it is just guarding the prison from the outside, instead of having guards on the inside!

A.P.: “What did Egypt and Jordan give back to the Palestinians when they controlled these respective territories?”

My answer: read Simha Flapan’s “The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities.” The British-controlled Emir of Jordan, Abdallah (whose forces were led by the British colonialist Lieutenant-General Sir John Bagot Glubb-a man who likely wanted to implement the disgraceful Balfour Declaration) actually made a deal to split Palestine between the Jewish colonialists and Trans Jordan. Obviously, a Palestinian state wouldn’t be viable if Egypt established only in Gaza. In addition to that, the loss of major Palestinian cities like Acre, Jaffa, Nazerath, Bisan, Safad, etc.; and the ethic-cleansing of Palestinians in 1948 put the focus of the national Palestinian struggle on the the right of return. Every period in history has its own priorities, the 1948 al-Nakbah was too shocking for Palestinians to make them before 1967 give up 78% of their homeland. Heck, now Abbas is OK with 18-19% (and he told Israel’s TV that he was giving up his right to return to his birthplace/childhood city of Safad, which is now in Israel)! Israel says no because the Jewish people, and only the Jewish people (not Palestinian Muslims and Christians) have the right to live in “Eretz Israel!”

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May 23rd, 2013, 7:03 am


22. Tara said:

Assad can’t say no to Geneva conference.  Participate or we will arm the rebels.

US pushes Europe to amend arms embargo on Syrian rebels
John Kerry seeks support for British-led move as means of pressuring Bashar al-Assad to enter into peace negotiations
Ian Black, Middle East editor, Wednesday 22 May 2013 17.31 EDT

Labour’s Douglas Alexander asked: ‘How would the government prevent British-supplied weapons falling into the wrong hands?’ Photograph: Reuters
The United States is lobbying European governments to back a British-led call to amend the EU arms embargo on Syria to put pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to enter into talks with the opposition.

John Kerry, the US secretary of state, has been urging the EU to reach consensus on a change that would allow weapons to be delivered to the rebels – though without any decision to do so at this stage.

Diplomatic sources said on Wednesday that Britain now has the support of France, Italy and Spain, while Germany is neutral. But Austria, Finland, Sweden and the Czech Republic are still opposed. Ambassadors of all 27 EU members have been called into the state department in Washington to be told of the latest US position ahead of a crucial foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels next Monday.

Speaking in Jordan on Wednesday, Kerry pledged publicly that the US and its EU allies would step up support for Syrian opposition forces to help them “fight for the freedom of their country” if Assad does not engage in talks with the rebels in good faith. Efforts are under way, with Russian backing, to convene a peace conference in Geneva some time in June.

In Britain, however, plans to amend the EU embargo are being complicated by disagreements between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats and a row in Whitehall about the risks of supplying weapons to rebels fighting Assad’s regime.


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May 23rd, 2013, 7:40 am


23. annie said:

Israeli generals preparing the invasion of #Syria should and when Assad falls.

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May 23rd, 2013, 8:10 am


24. Akbar Palace said:

More Pali Intransigence

AP: “Didn’t Israel give back Gaza and large parts of the West Bank?”

My answer: No, it is just guarding the prison from the outside, instead of having guards on the inside!


Excuse me, but your crying about how “Israel is powerful and will not give up anything to the Palestinians” is just plain BS because you require Israel to give up EVERYTHING!

You’re all “black & white” on this issue and you haven’t even said what are acceptable borders for Israel.

Israel can live with a Palestinian state, but you and your ilk cannot live with a Jewish State. Nothing has changed since the rejection of the ’47 partition plan and the ’67 “3 nos”.

And this talk is “prison” is plain propaganda. Gaza is twice the size of Washington DC. And there is a border with Egypt. Chat with them about open borders. On thing is for sure, in a state of war, there is no free border between Israel and Palestine.

You can live with your decisions or you can make peace. Your choice.

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May 23rd, 2013, 8:17 am


25. Syrialover said:

Matthew Barber,

Thank you for the article. Something positive to read.

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May 23rd, 2013, 8:20 am


26. Matthew Barber said:

Sandro Loewe is unbanned per conversation with me, not having seen the announcement, and pledging to abide by a standard of thoughtful debate rather than personal attack.

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May 23rd, 2013, 8:25 am


27. Tara said:


How long is the banning for the other guys?

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May 23rd, 2013, 8:45 am


28. Dolly Buster said:

mjabali said: Would care enlightening us with why you do not see Sufism as a real movement?

Well I got it from Dimashqiah, he is an ‘Aalim.

This is his channel

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May 23rd, 2013, 9:45 am


29. Dawoud said:

Attn: ANN

As a friendly advice (yes, you get those from me sometimes!), if you try to connect to “Syria Comment” and get a server error or bad connection, you are likely using Google Chrome browser. I sometimes get this error message, but when I switch to Firefox or even IE the connection is perfect. It may all be a browser issue if it’s not a low-speed Internet connection. Somehow I have difficulty using Chrome for SC! Does Joshua Landis have a problem with Google? 🙂 🙂 May he should post an article on how Google knows more about all of us than Bashar al-Assad’s Mukhabarat (secret police) 🙂

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May 23rd, 2013, 10:01 am


30. dawoud said:

Very reasonable plan!

Assad foe tells Syrian leader to cede power to officials

(Reuters) – A Syrian opposition leader urged President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday to hand power to his deputy or his prime minister and then go abroad with 500 members of his entourage, without immunity from prosecution.

Assad is likely to reject or ignore the 16-point peace plan proposed by Moaz Alkhatib, who resigned as head of the Western-backed opposition National Coalition in March, particularly given recent military gains by his forces against rebels.

However, Alkhatib’s proposal shows a willingness to work with people associated with Assad throughout the revolt and will be seen as stretching out a hand to members of the government.

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May 23rd, 2013, 10:07 am


31. zoo said:


Thanks for the interesting article.
While the emergence of a representative of moderate Islam within the opposition is more than welcome, I think that Sheikh Al Ayoubi’s presence will trigger more divisions and power struggles among the religious leaders and the countries supporting the opposition. Having Salafis, MB and Sufis united under the same umbrella sounds like a far fetched dream.
Obviously he is working on the Turkish AKP model.
He is creating a ‘sunni’ bloc thus turning a religious creed excluding the others into a political party. Syria is not Turkey. The minorities in Syria will probably not accept a second class citizen role and they may resort to unify within the military structure to oppose the ‘sunni’ bloc.

By the way, what are Sheikh al Ayoubi’s political stand on Palestine, Israel, Iran, the USA?
This would be critical for the international community’s acceptance as it focuses more on Israel’s security and Iran’s threats than on Syria’s future political system.

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May 23rd, 2013, 10:11 am


32. revenire said:

I believe anything the opposition does is worse than meaningless and al-Ya’qoubi is even more meaningless.

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May 23rd, 2013, 10:45 am


33. zoo said:

The game of the conference

The US blackmail to Bashar al Assad has just embolded the opposition to repeat their pre conditions that are now post-conditions. They think that the Syrian government will have no choice than to abide.
They also count that Iran, busy with elections, will not intervene militarily.

The flow of new conditions and provocative declarations coming from the opposition is simply a way to hide their humiliation of having to recant their request for Bashar al Assad to resign ahead of the conference.
It is also to hide their embarrassment in setting up a delegation for the conference in the midst of their deep divisions.
They hope that these aggressive declarations will force the Syrian government to reject the conference, thus cancelling it. Thus they hope the USA will provide the needed weapons to win militarily.
Again they underestimate the political capabilities of Bashar Al Assad and the current military situation.
The Syrian army is regaining strategic locations and the rebels are running out of weapons. Without more weapons, the rebels may be totally crushed.
This is why the Syrian government will probably show little reactions to the flow of the opposition provocations. It will show a commitment to the conference, waiting for the opposition to drink the bitter pill, accept that there are no preconditions, nor post conditions and set up a delegation.
If the opposition fails to do that, they’ll bear the blame of torpedoing the conference and loose their credibility.

Once the opposition is eventually on board, then the Syrian government will go on offensive. It will request a agreed definition of the objectives of the conference and have the opposition recant all the declarations they made previously on the outcome. This may take weeks. In the meantime, the Syrian Army will continue to regain territories.
The game has just started.

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May 23rd, 2013, 11:01 am


34. revenire said:

“Support for Syrian Rebels Is Immoral,” Says Va. Senator Black
End U.S. support for Syrian rebels now

America should end its intervention in Syria or shift its support to President Bashir Assad. Iraq-based al Qaeda militants now control the rebellion. A shadowy terrorist named Baghdadi has moved from Iraq to northern Syria to control al Qaeda’s operations there. He is a grotesque savage, determined to compel acceptance of radical Islam through religious courts and executions.

Under his influence, rebels have begun sharing online videos of atrocities, including public executions of captured soldiers. This week, a rebel leader proudly cannibalized a Syrian soldier for all to see. If Syria falls, these barbarians would unleash rape and bloodletting of epic proportions.

Ten years of Middle East conflict has inflamed radical forces, driving Christians and Jews from lands they occupied for thousands of years. In the time of St. Peter, Damascus may have been the most Christianized place on Earth. And despite hundreds of years of Islamic dominance, Syria still remains 10 percent Christian.

Christians are protected by Mr. Assad, just as they were by his father before him. They and the ruling Alawite Muslims are understandably frightened by the bloodthirsty executions and cannibalism of the rebels.

In Libya and Egypt, the fruits of the “Arab Spring” have proved poisonous. The revolutions destroyed stability, moderation and religious tolerance.

U.S. military intervention ended badly in Libya. Our ambassador was killed, and 20,000 Libyan anti-aircraft missiles went missing; they may still be in rebel hands. If al Qaeda topples Syria, they will capture large stocks of chemical weapons to deploy against Israel and the West.

The United States is reportedly training and equipping the rebels. Requiring GIs to aid al Qaeda directly or indirectly is a despicable betrayal of their years of bloody battles against that terrorist force. Continued support for the Syrian rebels is simply immoral. It is time for the United States to stand down.

Member, Virginia General Assembly
Ashburn, Va.

Read more:
Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter

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May 23rd, 2013, 11:03 am


35. zoo said:

Does the SNC ex-chief Al Khatib really thinks that Bashar al Assad will obey? Al Khateeb has zero power in the opposition so what’s the point of that declaration.

Syrian opposition leader Al Khatib tells Al Assad to step down and leave

Plan offers them no legal immunity from prosecution

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May 23rd, 2013, 11:15 am


36. revenire said:

The only people who ever gave Khatib any credibility are delusional fools in the West. He is a cartoon character.

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May 23rd, 2013, 11:41 am


37. Ziad said:

Why is the UK pushing the EU to designate Hezbollah as a “terrorist” group?

A distinct increase of negative coverage has been forming in Western and Gulf press. This focus is specifically regarding Hezbollah’s direct involvement in the battle currently raging to take control of the Syrian town of Qusair; its overall role in Lebanon and the region, and its ties to both Syria’s President Assad, and the government of Iran.

As the Syrian conflict has gone on, Salafi/Jihaddi fighters from at least 30 different nationalities have poured through Syria’s borders, with the tacit approval of various state sponsors of the Syrian ‘opposition’. In turn, and for the best part of two years, compliant media have obliged in their attempts to subvert the Salafi/Jihaddi fundamentalist dynamic that has formed the core of the ‘opposition’s’ fighting force; finally relenting and admitting the fact not a single secular force is fighting against the Syrian Government. Contrary to this wilful ignorance or blatant subversion of facts; Western and Gulf media outlets now deem it their utmost priority to highlight not only Hezbollah’s direct involvement; but indeed, go to great lengths to highlight every single Hezbollah death, injury, movement or sneeze inside Syria.

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May 23rd, 2013, 11:53 am


38. zoo said:

Qatar though the AL is trying to impose ‘undisclosed’ proposals obviously aimed at obliging Bashar al Assad to reject them or refuse to participate

Arab league to submit list of peace proposals

Transitional unity government and deployment of peacekeepers included in plan
Published: 19:15 May 23, 2013
Gulf News
Cairo: The Arab League said on Thursday it will submit to the UN Security Council a list of proposals for a June peace conference aimed at ending the conflict in Syria. The pan-Arab body’s Syria committee, which met in Cairo on Thursday, agreed on “several points to help the next international conference in Geneva succeed,” it said in a statement without elaborating.

Qatari Prime Minister Hamad Bin Jassem Al Thani, who heads the Syria committee, and League Secretary General Nabil Al Arabi are to “submit the points to the five permanent members of the Security Council”.

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May 23rd, 2013, 12:25 pm


39. Ziad said:

Hind Al Thani tweeted with the concent and approval of the Qatari secrect service

Le vrai faux tweet de Hind Bint Hamad Al-Thani qui dénonce les crimes de son père en Syrie

Plusieurs sites arabes et anglais se sont relayés l’information selon laquelle Hind a critiqué les agissements criminels de son père en Syrie. Certains internautes n’y croient pas. D’autres affirment l’avoir lu dans un tweet posté par la princesse

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May 23rd, 2013, 12:34 pm


40. revenire said:

HNN Homs News Network
Post from our dear member Carlos Jose Martinez:

The Syrian army kills 500 terrorists in Al Qussair other Hundreds Render-

Takfiris 500 terrorists killed in the first phase of the battle of Al Qussair characterized by an attack by the Syrian army. Hundreds of militants surrendered or fled the battlefield before the advancing government forces.

The deterioration of morale and internal divisions between groups takfiris has also led to casualties in clashes occur between these groups in different parts of Syria.

Circles intelligence sources and Western diplomats have expressed concern and irritation by rapid advances of Syrian troops in Al Qussair. Their estimates indicate that Syrian government forces have achieved a clear victory, which very few operations needed to be completed.

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May 23rd, 2013, 12:36 pm


41. zoo said:

Syria rebels get 35-ton KSA arms cargo

in Breaking News 50 mins ago

Militants in Syria receive 35-ton Saudi arms cargo: Top Cmdr.

The top commander of foreign-backed militants fighting against the Syrian government says the militants have received a 35-ton arms shipment from Saudi Arabia.

Brigadier General Salim Idris, the chief of staff of the so-called Free Syrian Army, said on Thursday that the consignment will help armed men in their battles against the Syrian Army.

He added, however, that the munitions are not advanced and sophisticated enough to enable the militants defeat Syrian government forces.

The general noted, in particular, that the weapons will not be able to overpower tanks and planes in the strategic town of al-Qusayr, which is situated about 35 kilometers (22 miles) south of the western city of Homs.

Idris further stated that he will not attend the upcoming Geneva conference on Syria unless the United States and its allies provide the militants in Syria with anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.

He acknowledged that the Syrian anti-government gunmen are weak on the ground, saying it would not be fruitful for them to step into peace negotiations with the Damascus government at the moment.

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May 23rd, 2013, 2:03 pm


42. zoo said:

The SNC ridicules itself further in a propaganda movie

A recent propaganda film showing the SNC’s government in action hints at the obstacles it faces in its uphill struggle for credibility.

To a soundtrack of dramatic, Hollywood thriller-style music, the camera shows leading SNC figures hard at work in their boardroom.

Sleeves rolled up, marker pens in hand, a white board covered in writing in the background, they strategise and plan for victory against President Bashar Al Assad.

Interim prime minister Ghassan Hitto gestures with an emphatic gravitas to his ministerial team, a portrayal of the smart, no-nonsense CEO of Syria Inc.

Except the portrait misfires and more often than not, this collection of doubtlessly committed and principled people appears oddly hapless and helpless, like a meeting of a small town council trying to work out how much money to spend on biscuits and tea for the parish fair.

In one telling interlude, the stirring music fades and the words, “We are team executives” – spoken in English – hangs embarrassingly in the air, a moment beyond satire.

It is more David Brent, the delusional self-promoting middle manager of the comedy show The Office, than Che Guevara.
his has not been the SNC’s only Laurel-and-Hardy moment.

Read more:

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May 23rd, 2013, 2:12 pm


43. Badr said:

A couple of days ago I posed a question about the profoundness of Kerry-Lavrov accord. Actually, in contrast to the conjecture of a writer I linked to, I tend to believe the meeting of minds is rather superficial.

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May 23rd, 2013, 2:12 pm


44. Matthew Barber said:

Dolly Buster banned for vulgar attack.

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May 23rd, 2013, 2:59 pm


45. The Hunchbacked Mufti of Homs said:

36. REVERSO said:

“Khatib is a cartoon character.”

A cartoon character. Kind of like you, right, Reverso?

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May 23rd, 2013, 3:02 pm


46. The Hunchbacked Mufti of Homs said:


“Dolly Buster banned for vulgar attack”

Thank you, Matt. Dolly is a cynical, hypersensitive, wasted man, incapable of making any nourishing relationships and turning finally to a universe beyond religion. He belongs in the lowest rung of hell, along with Judas Iscariot and Brutus and Cassius…

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May 23rd, 2013, 3:09 pm



Are people being banned for intent?

There is a filter for vulgarity; and it is being used. So If the filter works, then the attack never happens.

Disclaimer: This rodent vehemently disagrees with Dolly Buster’s comments. But is also repulsed by knee jerk moderation.

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May 23rd, 2013, 3:23 pm


48. Matthew Barber said:

Hunchback: The banning of a user is not an invitation to start berating him. The idea is end the insults, remember?

Hamster: Childish are commenters who prefer to attack each other rather than debate. Moderation is part of running a website. As you are probably aware, many forums require every comment to pass through moderation before being posted, something that we do not require. And no, the spam filter is not very rigorous here.

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May 23rd, 2013, 3:30 pm


50. Akbar Palace said:

I think we should ban all regime supporters.

So they can get a small taste of what it was like to live under the Assad family for the last 40+ years.

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May 23rd, 2013, 3:34 pm


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