Zahran Alloush: His Ideology and Beliefs

Zahran Alloush

Zahran `Alloush: His Ideology and Beliefs
By Joshua Landis
December 15, 2013

Zahran Alloush is the military chief of the Islamic Front (‏الجبهة الإسلامية‎, al-Jabhat al-Islāmiyyah), the newly founded super militia that reportedly represents 45,000 fighters. As such, he could turn out to be the most powerful man in rebel held Syria.

Hassan Hassan argues in his article, “Why Syria’s Islamic Front is bad news for radical groups,” that the Jihadist and radical Islamist rhetoric of the Front can be discounted as a positioning ploy, but that the new group is really bad news for al-Qaida groups in Syria because it will stem the slide toward radicalism in Syria and be able to face down militias on their right.

It is too early to know if the Islamic Front will take on the formidable al-Qaida groups in Syria. Despite frequent tensions, the main groups that came together to form the Islamic Front have worked hand in glove with al-Qaida linked forces, particularly al-Nusra, on most battle fronts and recent offensives against the regime.

Zahran Alloush’s rhetoric and propaganda videos provide much insight into his world view, attitude toward Syria’s religious minorities, and vision for Syria’s future. The difference between his ideology and that of al-Qaida groups is not profound. Rather, it is one of shades of grey.
Perhaps the most important video Alloush has produced is this one:
كلمة الشيخ المجاهد زهران علوش للامة وتحدية للرافضة Speech of the Mujahid Zahran Alloush to the Umma on the challange of the “Raafida,” (rejectionists or Shiites).


Alloush uses the great Umayyad desert palace of Caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik as the backdrop for this dramatic video.

This is an anti-Shiite tirade and “bring-back-the-Umayyad-Empire” propaganda piece. It shows how sectarian Alloush is. He refers to Shiites, and reduces the Nusayris into this grouping, as “Majous”, or crypto-Iranians. “Majous” is the old term for pre-Islamic Persians or Zoroastrians. Arab Christians use the term in Christmas carols about the Magi, or “three kings from the Orient” (or east) who come to pay homage to Jesus—Magi are Persians or Easterners. Here it is an Islamic term of abuse meant to suggest that Alawites and Iranians not only have the wrong religion but also the wrong ethnicity—they are not Arabs, but crypto-Iranians. The term Majous is used in many rebel videos to refer to the Assad regime—”al-nizam al-majousi”—or simply to refer to Shiites (or Alawites) generally. It demonstrates how demonized the Alawites are in the propaganda of the new Islamic Front.

Zahran calls for cleansing Damascus of all Shiites and Nusayris. (“Nusayris” is the old term that referred to the Alawites prior to the adoption of “Alawite.” It is considered a term of abuse by Alawites. “Nusayri” refers to the founder of the religion, Ibn Nusayr, and is used by rebels to underscore the assertion that the Alawite religion is man-made and not sent from heaven. For the same reason, Muslims object to the old Christian appellation, Muhammadans, because it suggests that Islam was founded by Muhammad and not God. Christians, of course, believe there is no problem being named after their founder, Christ – but, of course, Christ is considered to be God. Not so Muhammad or Ibn Nusayr by their followers.) Alloush calls for ridding Damascus and Greater Syria of the evil works and impure deeds of the Nusayris, using Qur’anic language throughout to underline their deviant ways. Such language makes Assad’s effort to demonize the revolutionaries and rebels easy. On hearing this sort of talk from the leaders of the revolution, Alawites and other non-Sunni sects worry that their struggle is a fight for their very existence. Unfortunately, the regime treats the opposition with the same sort of extreme language, calling them terrorists, takfiris, and al-Qaida who are not true Syrians. Bigotry and religious intolerance has become a hallmark of the Syrian struggle as both sides try to annul the humanity of the other and completely dismiss each other’s concerns as conspiracies derived from evil. Iranian Ayatollahs have recently issued fatwas of their own, legitimizing religious war in Syria. See: Prominent Shiite Cleric Backs Fighting in Syria about Iran-based Grand Ayatollah Kazim al-Haeri, one of the mentors of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Islamic Front versus al-Qaida Ideology

This video and the language of Alloush demonstrates how difficult it is to draw a clear line between the ideology of the Islamic Front and that of the al-Qaida groups. They both embrace foreign jihadists and encourage them to come Syria to join the fight. They both call for the resurrection of an Islamic Empire and they both look back to the Golden Age of Islam for the principles upon which the new state will be founded. Their political philosophy and blue print for the future is largely based on a similar reading of Islamic history and the Qur’an.

Some analysts try to draw a clear line between al-Qaida and the Islamic Front, insisting that the former support changing Syria’s borders and seek to establish a Caliphate while the latter are Syrian Nationalists. Unfortunately, this distinction is not evident in their rhetoric. Both idealize Islamic Empire, both reject democracy and embrace what they call shari’a, both welcome jihadists from the “Islamic Umma,” both fly the black flag of Islam rather than the Syrian flag as their predominant emblem. The Islamic Front is dominated by Syrians who do have clear parochial interests, whereas ISIS is run by an Iraqi. Foreigners play a dominate role in its command, but this is not so with the Islamic Front. All the same, their ideologies overlap in significant ways.

Geneva II seems very far away when considering the statements of Zahran Alloush. The effort by moderate FSA leaders to recruit Zahran Alloush to their side and to set him against al-Qaida will be difficult. Equally, the US effort to take a new look at him seems driven by equal parts wishful thinking and desperation now that Salim Idriss has been thoroughly disgraced and driven from Syria. Alloush is unlikely to go to Geneva or to embrace any sort of compromise with either Assad or the remains of the Assad regime if Assad were to step aside, as the US demands.

Here are a bunch of tweets and articles underlying how controversial Zahran Alloush is. His Islamic Army is responsible for Douma, the town in which Razan Zeitouneh was kidnapped this week. She is a human rights lawyer and represented what was left of the original Syrian uprising.

Alloush’s Detractors

Zahran has a number of domestic enemies. In the Damascus region, many fighters who are not under his command seem to think that he is a self-promoter. He is also a prime target of the ISIS. He seems to receive the brunt of their social media attacks together with Adnan Arour. The Syrian opposition is uncomfortable to see a leader break away from the pack. This is why Zahran seems to elicit such strong attacks from his competitors and those who do not fall under his command.

Is Alloush the most powerful leader in rebel-held Syria?

He holds the title of military commander of the most powerful militia in Syria, but that is only if we assume that the IF is actually one militia, as it claims. In reality, it is made up of a number of powerful militias. Hassan Aboud, the head of Ahrar al-Sham, may actually be more powerful than Alloush, although he is listed only as the “Chief of the Political Office.” This reminds me of the secret military committee that drove forward the Baathist coups of the 1960s. It was formed by minority officers who found themselves exiled in Egypt by Nasser during the UAR. The leaders were Lieutenant-Colonel Muhammad Umran, Major Salah Jadid and Captain Hafez al-Assad. Like the present Islamic Front, they were supposed to be acting as one. But as they came to power and ceased working behind the scenes, they turned against each other. Assad ended up on the top after using his superior political skills and military base to outmaneuver the others and arrest them. Alloush may look like the strongest member of the IF on paper, but others may have superior force on the ground. Only time will tell.

Alloush and Jabhat al-Nusra

Alloush has gone out of his way to keep good relations with Jabhat al-Nusra. In this video he goes to some lengths to explain that his relationship with Nusra is one of brotherhood with only superficial ideological differences that can be settled with shari’a and discussions. This supports my argument that the ideological differences between the Front and al-Qaida are not deep. He says that Washington’s proscription of Nusra as a terrorist group does not concern him.

قنبلة قائد جيش الإسلام مع جبهة النصرة وعلاقة قائد جيش الإسلام بقائد جبهة النصرة أبي محمد الجولاني

The Islamic Front and the Free Syrian Army

The Islamic Front also overran the Bab al-Hawa crossing into Turkey this week and routed the moderate Free Syrian Army divisions that were loyal to the Supreme Military Command and indirectly represented US efforts to arm Syrian opponents of Assad. Salim Idriss, the putative head of the FSA and direct link to US support for the FSA,  fled into Turkey. Here is an excellent video made by an FSA officer who was at one of the arms warehouses when the Islamic Front overran it and stole its contents. He was stripped of his clothes and underclothing while being held upon the ground at gunpoint. Here is Salim Idriss’ account of the events. He denies that the Islamic Front attacked his headquarters and insists that it was protecting his position. US officials have asked the Islamic Front to return US equipment and vehicles taken from the warehouses. In the meantime, Ambassador Ford has met with Alloush to discuss the possibility of his going to Geneva.

Addendum:

Aron Lund, who write and edits the superb Syria in Crisis Blog for the Carnegie website, gave this reply to my questions about the Warehouse incident:

The warehouse attack – it is getting more complicated. I’ve now heard four or five stories about which group it was that first attacked the warehouses (ISIS, JN, SRF, IF, maybe with SMC defectors involved), prompting SMC to call in IF, which overran the whole place (and then decided to stay there, and now they may or may not give the stuff back). It’s tied in with other problems as well, the whole area seems to be bubbling with conflict. Ahrar al-Sham has been fighting Jamal Maarouf’s SRF all across Jabal al-Zawiya, and both seem to have been kidnapping each others members. They now struck a deal for SRF hand back the stolen goods via Jabhat al-Nosra, but I’m not clear if these are the same things that were taken from the stockpiles in Babisqa/Bab el-Hawa; I think not.

Correction (December 16, 2013)

According to Aljazeera, the Ford-Alloush meeting was the idea of a well connected person who attended a meeting between Ford and Idriss. He then suggested that he could bring the IF to the table. Evidently, the guy failed and the meeting never happened. The IF denied it as well. The meeting was based on gossip, rumor and news articles quoting Ford say that the US had not precluded working with Islamists. Also the Washington Post quoted senior US officials to say: “We don’t have a problem with the Islamic Front.”

Here is a translation of one section of the video, for which I thank my research assistant who wishes to remain anonymous.

1:59 minutes …I heard lately what was mentioned by some unclean (أنجاس) Shia, the enemies of Abu Bakr and Omar, the enemies of Osman Bin Affan, even the enemies of Ali ibn Abu Talib. I heard them making threats and promises, about the matter of the Banu Umayya state, saying that they won’t allow the creation of a state like the Banu Umayya state in Sham. And we tell you O unclean (أنجاس), you, who have distorted the Qur’an and challenged the honor (طعنتم بعرض) of the prophet and declared his sahaba kufar (declared his companions to be unbelievers) and killed the Awlia al-Salihiin, and allied with the Tatar and the Mongols and brought every heretic into the country and distorted the religion of Allah…??… and changed the sunna (غيرتم السنه) and fought it and killed the young and old, O you enemies of Islam, O you enemies of the Milah, we will step on your heads in the Najad, if Allah wills it…

[The writing on the screen says: “The sectarian Majousi Yasseh Al Khayth”]

From the mouths of the unclean Shia saying that they won’t allow the creation of the new Umayya state in Sham.

Shia sheikh: do you [Sunnis] want to bring back the Umayya in Sham again? We won’t allow it.

Alloush: The glory of Banu Umayya will return to Sham despite you (despite your noses) and it’s not up to you to allow it or not. The mujahediin of Sham will wash the filth (رجس) of the Rafida and the Rafidia from Sham, they will wash it forever, if Allah wills it, until they cleanse Bilad al-Sham from the filth of the Majous who have fought the religion of Allah.

Shia sheikh: You will find a great Shia intifada that won’t leave anything. You’re not stronger than us, we’re stronger than you, beware of the patient one if he is angered, we’re stronger.

Alloush: They threaten about a Shia intifada and we say that Shia are still servile and small (أذلاء صاغرين ) throughout history and that even Islam destroyed the Shia state repeatedly and destroyed their skulls repeatedly, despite their noses, thanks to Allah. Here are the Shia, wearing servility and shame, bringing in the Tatar to Bilad al-Sham (Greater Syria), bringing in the Mongols to Bilad al-Sham, wearing servility and smallness, and then the Muslims come back and cleanse Bilad al-Sham from their filth and their uncleanliness.

I invite all the mujahidin to join their mujahidin brothers in Sham (Damascus and Greater Syria)

And look at this hadith in which the prophet bids the mujahediin that join their brethren in Sham: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: It will turn out that you will be armed troops, one in Sham, one in the Yemen and one in Iraq. Ibn Hawalah said: Choose for me, Apostle of Allah, if I reach that time. He replied: Go to Sham, for it is Allah’s chosen land, Go to Sham, for it is Allah’s chosen land, to which his best servants will be gathered, for Allah has on my account taken special charge of Sham and its people… and Zaid bin Thabit Al-Ansari narrated:  I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) say: ‘Tuba is for Ash-Sham, Tuba is for Ash-Sham, Tuba is for Ash-Sham.” So we said: “Why is that O Messenger of Allah?” He said: Because the angels of Ar-Rahman spread their wings over Sham. Because the angels of Ar-Rahman spread their wings over Sham.”

Thus, congratulations to the people of Sham, for their battle with falsehood (الباطل), congratulations to the people of Sham for being the home of Islam (عقر دار), congratulations to the people of Sham that belief is returning to them from all over the world [he uses the word ya’ariz, from a hadith, talking about the belief ya’zir (returning/retreating/receding) to medina]. You people of Sham are carrying the banner of Islam today, so be worthy of holding it, and raise it high (ارفعوها بحقها) like the prophet asked. Majous, from Rafida and Nusayris, besieged al-Ghouta, they claimed, to prevent the creation of a state, such as that of the Banu Umayya.

And I bid you, o unclean (أنجاس) Rafida, that as the Banu Umayya destroyed your skulls in the past, the people of the Ghouta and the people of Sham will destroy your skulls in the future. And they will make you taste the worst torture in life (الدنيا), before Allah makes you taste the worst torture on judgment day. O unclean Rafida, you will find what you never expected, from the force of the Mujahediin of Islam in Bilad al-Sham until they make you taste the worst torture. O unclean Rafida, you’ll find what will worsen your faces [image, يسوء وجوهكم] in life (الدنيا), what will harm you in life and shame you on judgement day. They (the Shiites) don’t want a state like that of Banu Umayya, because the Banu Umayya state got rid of their obsolete Majousi glory, because the Banu Umayya state destroyed their heads, because the Banu Umayya state established truth (haq) and justice and tawhid.

We are proud of the Banu Umayya state, the capital of which was Damascus. So go (هبوا) O mujahediin to support your brethren, go to support your brethren, we, in Liwaa al-Islam, welcome the mujahediin from all over the world to be an aid and support for us, to fight in our ranks, the rank of Sunna, the Sunna of the messenger of Allah, which raise the banner of tawhid high, until the humiliation and destruction is upon the Majous, the enemies of Allah. Until we cleanse the Sham (Damascus and Greater Syria) from their filth and uncleanliness (?ادناسهم) so go (هبوا) to support you brethren O believers, go to support you brethren O believers, and heaven will await you, and Allah is with you…..7:41

Comments (58)


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51. zoo said:

@49 Amir in Tel Aviv

You are with whom you chose to be. Yet, I would prefer that you avoid starting a war of insults.

It is still very encouraging to see that you have been able to see and think beyond narrow personal and obsessive hatred.

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December 16th, 2013, 6:21 pm

 

52. zoo said:

Amir in Tel Aviv

The foreign “decision makers” that took over the revolution are even more extremists than the ones who brought the revolution to that monstrous fratricidal war we are seeing.

Do you have any suggestion on how the ‘revolution’ could go back from the Jihadi’s path it took?
Will the ‘toppling’ of Bashar al Assad simply do the trick?

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December 16th, 2013, 7:01 pm

 

53. zoo said:

“While failing to unseat Assad, the Saudi/US/UK-financed insurgency has razed much of Syria, killed more than a hundred thousand, forced seven million from their homes, fanned Shia-Sunni tensions across the Middle East and enabled al-Qaeda and its allies to carve out a sizeable enclave in northern and eastern Syria.”

Syrian shambles

http://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/letters/syrian-shambles-1-3235363
….
As the West’s dream of turning yet another Middle Eastern dictatorship into a Western-style democracy collapses into a desperate calamity for Syria’s inhabitants, are we in America and Britain prepared to face up to just what a disastrous shambles of millions of people’s lives we have engineered in that area?
….
Possibly what we are watching unfold in Syria is the greatest tragedy of them all. For all of their many faults, the Assad family’s Syria was the most stable country in the region; the only country left in the Middle East where various religious minorities lived in close proximity, and we encouraged Syria’s people to rebel on a whim then turned our backs on them.

We have their blood and suffering on our hands.

Shame on us this Christmas.

Irvine Inglis

Reston

Berwickshire

The decision by the US and Britain to suspend military aid to the Free Syrian Army underscores the stupidity of the venture in the first place. Many people warned that the aid sent to the Syrian “rebels” would end up in the hands of fanatical anti-Western al-Qaeda-linked jihadis and so it has happened

While failing to unseat Assad, the Saudi/US/UK-financed insurgency has razed much of Syria, killed more than a hundred thousand, forced seven million from their homes, fanned Shia-Sunni tensions across the Middle East and enabled al-Qaeda and its allies to carve out a sizeable enclave in northern and eastern Syria.

Washington and her allies have carried out a monstrous crime in Syria, organising and arming the most reactionary forces so as to remove a regime viewed as an obstacle to un-bridled Western domination of the world’s most important oil- exporting region.

The propaganda they spout dresses up a US-Saudi-fomented Sunni Islamist insurgency as a “revolution”.

Just as 9/11 was a consequence of the stupidity of arming jihadis against the Russians, so future terrorism here and abroad will be by people the US/UK governments helped in Syria.

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December 16th, 2013, 7:17 pm

 

54. SYRIAN HAMSTER said:

Amir and TARA

It surprises the heck out of a non-expert watcher like me to read Joshua’s answer to TARA’s question. Someone who studied the Assad regime that long, wrote about Syria, and made a reputation as one of the national experts on the talk show circuit, should recognize that the regime, which created many of the alqaida affiliates in Iraq, should know how its creation thinks.

To start with, the first ever ugly anthem of the Islamic State of Iraq bears canny resemblance to the Baath anthem. In fact, the melody is the identical, with lyrics only being changed. Even their emblem starts with similar declaration (One Nation) to that of the Baathist (One Arab Nation). This should point the finger to regime’s creative, yet imbecilic role in creating these organizations in the first place. This does not mean that the regime funded them, but it means that it was, as every single Syrian know, responsible for their training camps, and then their transport and set up in Iraq. An added bonus is the single hereditary genes of the calling for the revival of a long-gone empire. While each calls it differently (Arabic or Islamic), history tells us that both are after the same long-gone empire, with the same totalitarian zeal and much more in common than they would like to attest to.

Given the above and for both parental and origin reasons, assad security apparatus, incompetent and brutal as it is, knows well the behavioral pattern of the radical organizations it has either created, went to bed with, or occasionally went after. With this in mind, It clear that releasing notorious terrorists from jails, who in fact were merely kept on ice until they were needed, while at the same time torturing to death those who advocated civil uprising aimed at letting the worst out into the streets so that they can, as expected, reestablish their contacts with funding sources, and launch the holly war the regime could not force on the Syrian revolution, even after it brutally attacked its best and most patriotic, civil, and civilized icons and leaders.

Again, Joshua keeps hyping the Islamic radical forces as foes of the regime. There is not yet a single shred of evidence that shows either one of the two terrorist camps (regime and ISIS) really facing each others. The regime started with NUSRA, but that went out of hand once many Syrians joined al-Nusra. Then came ISIS, whose strength significantly increased after the mysterious escape from Iraqi jails of hard core murderers and terrorist, which allowed it to launch its most ambitious expansion from the small domain it infested in Raqqa to the country side of Aleppo and some areas within the liberated part of the city.

These are well known facts. Joshua knows that the two hypotheses he presented are not equally likely. Very much like he knew that agens the crow is a liar when he gave her a moral backing by stating “there is an element of truth to what she says”.

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December 16th, 2013, 7:25 pm

 

55. habib said:

13. Tara

The delusions here are incredible.

If this “conspiracy” theory is true, the opposition would be incredibly stupid to welcome all these criminals, as they did, and continue to do. How do you explain that?

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December 16th, 2013, 8:17 pm

 

56. Mick said:

Bashar was responsible for Al Qaieda in Iraq?

Let’s see. Bashar, though not a friend of Saddam, did not support the U.S. pushed illegal war against Iraq.

After the war started, Bashar, tried to work with the U.S., but the neo-cons would rather U.S. troops die from the Al Qaida ratlines than work with Syria. (Bashar had to balance the Sunni population that was against the war vs. trying to run his country.) These same ratlines people insist were Bashar’s are destroying his nation.

So other than rhetoric, I’d like to see some sort of what us in the real world call ‘evidence’ that Bashar was behind any Sunni-extremist movement (other than stupidly allowing Hamas safe haven, only to have the back-stabbers run when politically inconvenient.)

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December 16th, 2013, 10:23 pm

 

57. SYRIAN HAMSTER said:

What was Syria’s vote in the Security Council?

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December 17th, 2013, 2:20 am

 

58. Sanna said:

Zahran Alloush is the son of the Syrian Salafi cleric Abdullah Mohammed Alloush based in Saudi exile, who is said to be close to the ruling Saudi family. Zahran Alloush publically advocates torturing and murdering captured people he doesn’t like.Great post about Zahran Alloush`s life . Keep posting.

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February 20th, 2014, 3:31 am

 

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