“The Difference Between Wahhabis and Muslim Brothers,” by David Commins

This is the first part in a series of articles I will post on the relationship between Salafism and Sufism in Syria. The idea to commission different experts to write on this subject is a result of the questions raised by commentators on this earlier post on Islam in Syria, here (read the last 15 comments of the post).

Background: Today, the US administration is debating whether it can or should use the new Syrian opposition party – the National Salvation Front (NSF) – as leverage against the Assad regime in Syria. Is it a genuine democratic option? The NSF was created last year to combine the forces of ex-Vice President Abdal Halim Khaddam, who was a Baathist, and the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, whish is led by Ali Sadreddine Bayanouni. The new front and its leaders claim to embrace democracy, pluralism, and the rule of law.

One of the main arguments made by the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood for why they should be trusted as pluralists is that they distinguish themselves from the intolerant Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia. They claim that they do not endorse and never did endorse the break-away branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which led the violence of the late 1970s leading up to the Hama uprising of 1982. Another claim they make for why Islamic parties in Syria should threaten neither Syrian minorities nor western governments is that most Syrian Muslims are Sufis. Salafis in Syria, they argue, also embrace Sufism, something Salafis in the Gulf do not do. Because Sufism is a tolerant and peaceful brand of Islam, they insist, Syrian Islamists will be tolerant and peaceful.

But how true are these claims? Is the Syrian Salafist movement substantially different from the Wahhabi Salafists of Saudi Arabia? Do they embrace Sufism, and does that mean they are more tolerant and pluralist than other Muslims? These are some of the questions I have asked a number of scholars to address. The first of these scholars is David Commins.

David Commins, a professor at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, has written two excellent books on Salafism in Syria and Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia. He explains the different attitudes on Sufism between the Salafis of Syria, who were influenced by their Egyptian counterparts and the Wahhabi Salafis of Saudi Arabia.

David Commins writes:

It seems to me that different tendencies have claimed the salafi mantle in modern times, so divergences between Syrian Muslim Brothers and Saudi Wahhabis are not surprising.  Nor would it be surprising if there were different tendencies within the Muslim Brothers on matters such as Sufism and the standing of Shia as believers.

Regarding the specific issue of Sufism in the longer view: The Wahhabi salafis regard Sufi practices as illegitimate innovations and those who cling to them they consider infidels.  Their position on Sufi practices is not identical to that of Ibn Taymiyya, whose own Sufi affiliation with the Qadiri tariqa George Makdisi discussed.  The salafis in late Ottoman Damascus led by Jamal al-Din al-Qasimi disapproved of certain Sufi practices but did not condemn Sufism entirely.  The Syrian salafis certainly held a more favorable view of the Wahhabis than did most Muslims of that era, primarily due to their common interest in purifying ritual practices of what they considered ritual innovations.  The religious scholars of Damascus who opposed the salafis considered themselves defenders of proper Muslim ways and claimed the salafis were the same as Wahhabis (in their view, doctrinal extremists akin to Kharijites), but we need to view that charge in the context of a religious controversy and acknowledge points where Syrian salafis and Wahhabis differed.  They disagreed on adherence to legal schools: Wahhabis follow the Hanbali school while Qasimi did not believe in strictly following a single legal school.  They disagreed on politics: Qasimi strongly endorsed constitutional parliamentary government, while Wahhabis have no qualms with hereditary monarchy.  As for how the Wahhabis viewed the Syrian salafis, I have not come across specific evidence.  There is indirect evidence of cooperation in the published correspondence between Qasimi and the Baghdad scholar Mahmud Shukri al-Alusi, where the two men mention cooperating with Najdi contacts striving to bring to light works of Ibn Taymiyya.

As for the Muslim Brothers, it is important to recall that Hasan al-Banna referred to the Brothers as a salafi message and a Sufi truth.  In this light, that Syrian Muslim Brothers have maintained Sufi allegiances is not surprising.  I think the key point to keep in mind is that ‘salafi’ assumes different forms in different places and times.  There is certainly consistency in the emphasis on the authority of Islam’s founding generations, but the texts from Islam’s early centuries are rich enough to justify different views on the standing of individuals as believers or infidels (takfir), legal school affiliation, Sufism, and political systems.  If there is debate in contemporary Syria on what qualifies as salafi and the correct salafi position on Sufism, that should not be surprising as debate, not uniformity, is the norm in the history of Islamic thought.

It may be helpful to readers to have what I consider a very broad sketch of some basic differences between the Brothers and the Wahhabis that are rooted in the origins, one in interwar Egypt, the other in eighteenth century Najd.  To that end, I am attaching a couple of pages (slightly modified) from my book that compares Hasan al-Banna and Wahhabi thought in a few key areas.  References are in the book. 

David Commins, The Wahhabi Mission and Saudi Arabia. I. B. Tauris (February 2, 2006). From pp. 141-143.

Hasan al-Banna shared with the Wahhabis a strong revulsion against Western influences and unwavering confidence that Islam is both the true religion and a sufficient foundation for conducting worldly affairs.  Nevertheless, significant differences separate the Najdi movement from the modern revivalist agenda because the former stemmed from Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab’s distinctive views on doctrine whereas the Muslim Brothers were a reaction against European domination and cultural invasion.  On the central Wahhabi doctrine of monotheism, Banna held that only the open proclamation of apostasy, denying well-known beliefs and religious obligations, and deliberately twisting the meaning of the Quran rendered the believer an infidel.  While he agreed with the Wahhabis on the need to purify religious practices of illegitimate innovations, he saw nothing wrong with visits to the tombs of holy men as long as one did not seek their intercession.  As a youth, he had been active in a sufi order and although he would later criticize sufism’s ‘corrupt’ aspects, he maintained that its emphasis on asceticism and mindfulness of God made it an essential part of Islam.  In fact, he exhorted Muslim Brothers to practice individual and group dhikr, a ritual ‘mentioning’ of God, to strengthen the believers’ mindfulness of God and the Prophet’s example.  Dhikr is a hallmark of sufi practice and considered by the Wahhabis an illegitimate innovation. More generally, Banna’s keen desire for Muslim unity to ward off Western imperialism led him to espouse an inclusive definition of the community of believers.  Thus, he would urge his followers, ‘Let us cooperate in those things on which we can agree and be lenient in those on which we cannot.’  Banna did not share the Wahhabi view that most Muslims were idolaters.

Banna also differed from the Wahhabis in his political ideas.  He lived during Egypt’s phase of constitutional parliamentary government and his writings reflect that context’s influence.  He maintained that constitutional government meshed with Islamic principles because it ensured a ruler’s accountability to the people.  He lamented the failure of the Egyptian constitution of his day to establish Islam as the fundamental basis for public life, but did not regard constitutionalism as contrary to Islam.  Wahhabi doctrine does not support constitutional rule.  Whereas Banna denied the legitimacy of hereditary monarchy in Islam, Wahhabi ulama have supported the Saudi monarchy.    

A salient element in Banna’s notion of Islam as a total way of life came from the idea (current since the mid-nineteenth century) that the Muslim world was backward, and the corollary (current since the early twentieth century) that the state was responsible for guaranteeing decent living conditions for its citizens.  He argued that the government had the duty to minimize unemployment, guarantee a minimum wage and health care for workers, and ensure the fair distribution of wealth.  Such notions are alien to Wahhabism. Other assumptions of the modern state permeated Banna’s outlook. He considered public education a critical vehicle for bolstering Muslim society against Western influences (which did not exist in eighteenth-century Najd).  Muslim schools would teach pupils about Islam and encourage them to eschew foreign ways.The central area of accord between the Brothers and the Wahhabis is their moral zeal and rejection of Western ways that threaten to erode piety and undermine Muslim custom.  Western influences arrived in Saudi Arabia much later than Egypt, but when they did, the Wahhabis exhibited a similar revulsion toward them and agreed with the Muslim Brother view of European culture as one of godlessness, immorality, and excessive individualism. It is true that Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab and Hasan al-Banna would have seen eye to eye on the ruler’s responsibility to eliminate immoral habits. They would also have concurred on the duty of the ruler (or the state) to appoint (or employ) pious believers to responsible positions to ensure proper observance and enforcement of religious duties and principles.

In the face of foreign forces that seemed to have the power to totally overwhelm every bastion of Muslims’ lives—economic, political, cultural, and moral—the Muslim Brothers’ assertion that Islam was not just a religion but an entire way of life represented a logical stance of resistance.  The irony is that the position entailed reshaping Islam into religious nationalism and incorporating a notion of backwardness that made sense only in the context of the modern confrontation with the West.  Briefly, to save Islam, Muslims had to change it.  This reflects the different historical circumstances surrounding the appearance of the Muslim Brothers and Wahhabism.  It is common for writers on Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab to assert that he sought a social renewal of Arabia, but that characterization is never given specific substance, unless one considers ritual correctness and moral purity to constitute such renewal.  The problem with such generalizations is they encourage facile comparisons with Islamist movements, when in fact Najd’s eighteenth-century reformer would have found key elements in Hasan al-Banna’s writings utterly alien.  In sum, the twentieth century alliance between Wahhabis and Muslim Brothers had a narrow base in religious doctrine, but a shared commitment to combat powerful secular forces seeping into Muslim societies.

For readers interested in the early twentieth century debate on Wahhabism in Damascus, here are some useful sources:

Mustafa al-Shatti, al-Nuqul al-shar`iyya fi al-radd ala al-wahhabiyya (Damascus, 1900).

Ata al-Kasm, al-Aqwal al-murdiya fi al-radd ala al-wahhabiyya. (Cairo, 1901)

Ahmad al-Mu’ayyad al-Azmi, Jala’ al-awham `an madhahib al-a’imma al-`azam wa al-tawassul bi-jah khayr al-anam alayhi al-salah wa al-salam (Damascus, 1911).

Abd al-Qadir ibn al-Sayyid Muhammad Salih al-Kaylani al-Iskandarani, Al-Nafha al-zakiya fi al-radd ala shubuh al-firqa al-wahhabiyya (Damascus, 1922)

Muhammad Tawfiq al-Suqiya, Tabyin al-haqq wa al-sawab fi al-radd ala atba` Ibn Abd al-Wahhab (Damascus, 1922)

Abu al-Yasar al-Dimashqi al-Maydani (Muhammad Bahjat al-Bitar), Nazara fi risalat al-nafha al-zakiya fi al-radd ala shubah al-firqa al-wahhabiyya (Damascus, 1922),

Ahmad Fawzi al-Sa’ati, al-Insaf fi da`wat al-wahhabiyya wa khusumihim li-raf` al-khilaf (Damascus, 1922)

The Qasimi-Alusi correspondence is in Muhammad ibn Nasir al-`Ajmi, al-Rasa’il al-mutabadala bayna Jamal al-Din al-Qasimi wa Mahmud Shukri al-Alusi (Beirut, 2001).

Comments (38)

ugarit said:

Thank you Dr. Landis for this post.

As I suspected, the Wahhabis are the anti-intellectual wing of the Salafis. I can’t recall where I read this, but a few hundred years ago to get degree in theology, in the Arabian peninsula, one had to study for about seven years, while now it merely takes 2-3 years.

I don’t think Syrian Salafist+Sufi’s (SSS) would stand a chance if Islamic parties took over in Syria. The Wahhabis have a lot more capital and propaganda tools to destroy the SSS. Therefore, effectively it is almost irrelevant that the SSS appear more “moderate”. They would be quickly dealt with.

May 9th, 2007, 1:27 am


Akbar Palace said:

Dear Dr. Landis,

Just checking in while on vacation (and a line of internet users waitning behind me).

Are you planning to open a thread/discussion on the impact of the French presidential election? You’d think conservatism was loooong gone. But, alas, it isn’t.

What do you and your fellow bloggers think is going on here???

Check you later…


May 9th, 2007, 1:48 am


Bakri said:

Many Thanks to Dr Landis and Dr Commins for this valuable explanation which give important historical details about the revivification of Salafism in late Ottoman Syria, which was rich in intellectual work and debates in a constructive and civilized atmosphere.

Dr Landis said:Today, the US administration is debating whether it can or should use the new Syrian opposition party ….
Dr Landis,the syrian muslim brotherhood and the syrian opposition in general are against most of the american policy in the region and against the occupation of arab countries so what they hope from the USA is that the USA stop its support for dictatorial regimes,and to opt for constructive dialogue with representative and elected governments,if not this region will generate more and more extremism and hostility towards the west.

May 9th, 2007, 2:14 am


norman said:

And i thought we have only Shaia and Sunni besides christians , apparently we have Sufi , Salafi and Wahabies ,

Syria needs to be strictly secular country , that is the only way to be for all Syrians .
I looked at what happened in Turkey ,I was very pleased with the stand that Erdogan and Gull took, they elected what is best for the country not what is good for their party which is alot more than what the Syrian opposition does.

May 9th, 2007, 2:30 am


George Ajjan said:

Josh, this is great information and I am learning from it. Many thanks to Dr. Commins and others for sharing.

However, I would caution that we not assume that scholarly debates 100 years old have more impact on Syrian Muslims of today than the propaganda they see on the plethora of Arabic satellite channels, not to mention their own government.

May 9th, 2007, 8:32 am


Ford Prefect said:

Dr. Landis,
Great post, cheers. I will be contributing later as I am on travelin Europe at the moment. But I caught something that needs correction.

You mentioned that “..ex-Vice President Abdal Halim Khaddam, who was a Baathist..” He was a Ba’athist and he still is. He never changed his political affiliation nor renounced his Ba’athism. In fact, he just issued a statement to his fellow comrades congratulating them for the anniversary of the 8 March Revolution that brought them to power (and corruption) in Syria. Yes, that precise dark (if not the darkest) moment of Syrian history, he thought, is worth commemorating.

May 9th, 2007, 11:37 am


why-discuss said:

Norman, Turkey may get into more trouble if the president is elected by the people instead of the parlement. Turkey may end up by having an even more islamic president than Gul.. Most of turks are in the small cities and villages and they support a more islamic government than the ankara or istambul europeanized turks…
I guess Erdogan and Gul have accepted this constitution change because they know that it is to their advantage! Turks are on for a big surprise!

May 9th, 2007, 12:17 pm


Bakri said:

WHY DISCUSS ,Ankara and Istanbul inhabitants have both elected AKP party members as Mayors for their city.And this is not new,PM Erdogan for example was mayor of Istanbul since the first half of the 90’s when he was member of Refah party of Necmettin Erbakan.

May 9th, 2007, 1:04 pm


norman said:

Is the change in the way they elect the president going to go to the high court for aproval.doesn’t that change th constitution.

May 9th, 2007, 3:02 pm


John Kilian said:

I agree the US should “opt for constructive dialogue with representative and elected governments,if not this region will generate more and more extremism and hostility towards the west.

I am not sure if Syria is the best example of a representative and elected government, but perhaps it will head this way. Sufi ideology is still a mystery to me, but it seems that sufiism is more open minded to a universe of possibilities versus a very doctrinaire approach of arriving at a conclusive judgement that rapidly becomes intransigent. This open mindedness is critical to the coexistence of multiple political parties and peaceful transfers of power from one to another.
The civility in the political process in Turkey is encouraging. Hopefully Syria’s Ottoman roots will lead to a similar form of government that is similar to what is in Turkey and very different from the current Kleptocracy in Damascus.

May 9th, 2007, 3:27 pm


MSK said:

John K,

your idea that “it seems that sufiism is more open minded to a universe of possibilities versus a very doctrinaire approach of arriving at a conclusive judgement that rapidly becomes intransigent” is pretty much right on target.

There is quite a variety among the various Sufi groups – for ex. for some music is an integral part of worship whereas others think that music in itself is haraam – but the overall attitude is that trying to force one’s own ideas onto others is a big nono.

The rigidity of Islamism is quite a modern phenomenon.

David Commins is quite brilliant. I’m glad that Josh had the idea to have him contribue this piece.


May 9th, 2007, 3:41 pm


Bakri said:

Dear John Kilian,i’m sorry if i was not clear enough and yes,the syrian regime is the worse amongst all of these regimes and what i meant is a democratically elected government not this sectarian familly regime.
And i agree that Turkey and Syria have a lot of things in common and what happens in Turkey should have positive repercussion on Syria.

May 9th, 2007, 4:11 pm


Syrian said:

John Killian

Syria’s Ottoman roots!!

Syria’s root go much deeper than the Ottoman period. Your assumption is that the Ottoman’s had a liberalizing influence on Syria’s Muslims is groundless.

May 9th, 2007, 4:14 pm


Enlightened said:

Interesting post, coming from a very secular islamic family, I have absolutely no credibility to comment on this thread. It was interesting however to learn the difference.

My ex neighbour a Saudi national who is doing his PHD at Sydney university gave me a rundown on Saudi religious teaching and what he went through at school after a dinner once, suffice to say it made my hair turn grey, things like “If you had enough Iman (faith) you could stop a bullet penetrating your body” Such propoganda to young men borders on indoctrination I told him, the Australian way of life has changed him however he has stopped praying and he his wife doesnt wear the headscarfe, they are both dreading the lifestyle change when he finishes his study and has to go back.

Can anyone who is living inside Syria on this website can give us some facts on the ground regarding the islamic community, Bakri if you live in Syria you probably are the best person to do this.

Most Syrians I know are very relaxed in their religious outlook, one of our employees, from an Alawite family has given me a brief rundown, but he has been away from Syria for over twenty years.

May 10th, 2007, 12:40 am


EHSANI2 said:

Dr. Landis,

I stumbled on this post of yours from three years ago. I thought it provided a lot of food for thought.


May 10th, 2007, 12:43 am


youngSyria said:

I dont think there is a connection between syria and turky.. what happens in arab countries around syria has THE major influence on syria .. and no there isnt any Ottoman roots too…
the only way you could stop a bullet penetrating your body is to stop messing around with people..

May 10th, 2007, 6:59 am


youngSyria said:

and whats with mohammed micheel ‘aflak!! do you think he will get 40 virgins or less!!??

May 10th, 2007, 7:10 am


tony said:

G ‘day mates
I just have to congratulate “Enlightened” for his contribution I just has to agree with his assessment about majority of Syrian Muslim as relax or even being “secular-Muslim” if there such a thing
Josh your comments about the USA thinking about talking to us in NSF
Is pre mature
And give us a little more credit than that . I can not see us been used and been abused by USA
It just does not happen this way these days any more
Trust on me this

May 10th, 2007, 8:02 am


Alex said:

More simultaneous war and peace signals from Israel. But foreign ministry is recommending peace talks with Syria.

Border Control / The Syrian snowball effect
By Akiva Eldar

It started two months ago with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Ellen Sauerbrey’s visit to Syria, continued with the U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s quick trip and ended last week with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s meeting with her Syrian counterpart, Walid Moallem, in Sharm el-Sheikh. At this pace, the situation might deteriorate to the point that Syrian President Bashar Assad is invited to visit Washington.

It started with a discussion on the fate of the one million Iraqi refugees who found refuge in Syria and continued with a discussion on Syria’s contribution to extricating the United States from the Iraqi quagmire. If we don’t pay attention, soon the U.S. will lift the boycott of Syria. Even so, the departure of Jacques Chirac, who swore he would avenge himself on the Syrians for the murder of his friend, former Lebanese prime minister Rafik al-Hariri, is expected to lift the last impediment in Syria’s way to an association agreement with the European Union.

Upon leaving her meeting with Moallem, Rice made certain to reassure everyone that there is nothing more logical than talking with the Syrian foreign minister about the problems related to Iraq, and said she called on Damascus to take steps to prevent the infiltration of armed combatants via its borders with Iraq. At the same time, she did not mention that official U.S. Army data indicate that there was a continuous decline in the number of armed combatants who infiltrated into Iraq via the Syrian border in April. Moallem hinted that this meeting was not the last in the renewed dialogue between the two countries and that he was assured that if Syria continues to assist the U.S. in the areas of interest to it, the American administration would be generous not only with regard to the quantity of meetings but also as far as the quality of the topics of discussion is concerned.

From the perspective of the Mossad and other intelligence personnel, Syria was and remains a threat to Israel. Mossad chief Meir Dagan, for example, fears the Americans will stop prohibiting Israel from doing what it is taking the liberty of doing. In effect, the Bush administration is no longer really “prohibiting” Ehud Olmert from talking with the Syrians. When David Welch, Rice’s aide, was recently asked about his opinion on negotiations with Syria, his answer was to make do with, “why would you?”

The Foreign Ministry did not wait for Welch’s approval to prepare a position paper. Its bottom line is that whoever does not seriously relate to Assad’s “peace signals,” should take seriously his threats of war. The Foreign Ministry believes there are two main options: one is peace negotiations with Syria, without preconditions. The other option is preparations for a preventive attack. A third possibility, continuing the status quo on the Golan Heights, appears with a very low likelihood, if at all.

The Defense Ministry does not like the involvement of the bureaucrats – as they call the Foreign Ministry officials – in the Syrian arena. When intelligence officials want to move politicians in their direction, they pull out “the material.” Dagan recently said that based on “the material” in his hands, the leaders of moderate Arab states will perceive negotiations with Syria as “a stab in the back.”

As in many cases, there is a bit of truth to that. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdallah, Jordan’s King Abdullah and, of course, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) fear that overly vigorous involvement in the Syrian channel will perpetuate the blockage in the Palestinian channel. However, they estimate that a peace process could push Hamas in the desired direction and contribute to distance Syria from Iran’s embrace.

Officials in the Prime Minister’s Bureau realize that dealing with his political survival does not absolve Olmert of the need to decide how to proceed in the Syrian arena. On the contrary, if he wants the Winograd Committee’s final report to look better than the interim one, Olmert will have to address the harsh criticism about the failure to hold a discussion to consider the alternatives to the way the war was waged. As it happens, the prime minister knows committee member Prof. Yehezkel Dror’s opinion on his demand that Syria stop supporting terror as a prerequisite for renewing negotiations. Only the word “folly” is missing there.

May 10th, 2007, 8:24 am


t_desco said:

Brammertz’ Report ‘Concluded’ After Koleilat Grilling
Naharnet, Asharq Al-Awsat

Qoleilat ‘sheds light on who killed Hariri’
The Daily Star


– anonymous “well-informed Lebanese sources” are notoriously unreliable

– similar reports in the past, also based on anonymous sources, turned out to be false

– in his latest press conference, Brammertz did not rule out the possibility of a conncetion between the Al-Madina and the Hariri case, but he stressed that the evidence gathered so far did not suggest a strong link concerning the motive of the crime, according to this report by Al-Akhbar, March 22th, 2007

May 10th, 2007, 11:29 am


EHSANI2 said:

Following Mr. Assad’s comments at the People’s Assembly today with regards to the tribunal, I think that the time has come to tightly fasten those seat belts.

May 10th, 2007, 11:38 am


Philip I said:


“More simultaneous war and peace signals from Israel. But foreign ministry is recommending peace talks with Syria.”

Speaking of which, and partly in response to your invitation to write something on the Golan, I have now posted a comment on my Blog:

“More sour grapes over the Golan”.

I do not expect many people to agree with it but please feel free to repost, unedited, on your blog as part of the range of comments you are planning to publish on the 40th anniversary of the loss of the Golan.

May 10th, 2007, 11:56 am


EHSANI2 said:

Anwar Al-Bunni’s 5-year sentence looks tame after Mr. Lubwani’s 12-year verdict (immediately reduced to that level from life). Getting into politics is not good for your health and well being. Sticking to blogging would do just fine, thank you.

May 10th, 2007, 1:31 pm


trustquest said:

According to the post and comments is as follows: history is moving in one direction and change from within is impossible.
By means of Dr. Landis on the referenced link pointed by Ehsani above, Baathism is as centrist and prejudice as MB (Sufi with some Salafi tendencies). If Baathis ideology is centrist and the regime is a selective sect of a centrist party, then the inept system in Syrian for the last 44 years had no chance to evolve. The regime has to fight those hostile ideas as a mean of survivor. If we turn the time and imagine that MBs were leading in the last 44 years we would imagine a more puritan society instead of the oligarchy system. A society could be similar to Suadi kindom, but way more tolerance in republic setting not monarch. And this could explain the counterpunch to the oligarchy system in building 80,000 mosques in the last three decades.

May 10th, 2007, 1:44 pm


someone said:

The are no differences between the Baath and the Muslim Brotherhood. The problem is in the people not the ideology. Allegiance in all of the Arab communities is to the family, tribe and sect, this allegiance is above the welfare of the homeland. If the MB were in power the would behave in the same way as the Baathists did. They would have used religion to cement their hold on power exactly like the Iranian clerks.
The Mb is a power hungery group; their talk of tolerance and accepting the other is no more than a smoke screen to attract support form the west. In the past the Mb had a good support base among the religious community in Syria but the moment they allied themselves with Khaddam their support base declined considerably. How could they put their hands with one of the pillars of corruption? A person who defected because his financial interests were taken away ,thus he has no moral or ethical standard.
Islamic groups can’t offered to look intolerant because the ruling regimes are keeping a close eye on them and the whole international community is doing the same. If they start to behave in a fundamental or a fanatic way, they would be hounded by the ruling regimes and ostracized by the international community. The best example of this is Hamas. The moment they were in power, they discovered that being in power was good, in matter of fact, it was wonderful, so suddenly the struggle with Israel took second position, and the aim of having a large piece of the government pie became much more important than fighting Israel. By doing this they dragged the Palestinian society into a short lived civil war, which could re-erupt, again, at any time.
In the end, the truth must be said, there are moderate tolerant Muslims out there, they maybe a silent minority but we can only hope that this minority would grow and become a majority.

May 10th, 2007, 2:39 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Someone –

Which is why democracy is so important to the ME and the rest of the world.

Just like France, a people need to know they can make changes when a government continues to fail them year after year.

… so suddenly the struggle with Israel took second position …

Let us know when it becomes “first” position;)

May 10th, 2007, 2:49 pm


Souri said:

Ehsani, I am scared even from blogging .

So every one say after me

May 10th, 2007, 3:43 pm


someone said:

Democracy is an end product. When you have a country with literacy rate of 50%, a failing economy, rampant corruption, do you think by applying democracy all the problems will be solved with a click of a mouse?
Have you every sat down with an illiterate nomad or a peasant and talked with him about democracy?
Western democracies took hundreds of years to reach to what they are now, between the Magan carat and the US constitution it took us no less then six hundred years to reach where we are now.
There are only four nations that reached an acceptable degree of Democracy within one to two generations and they are Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia if you look closely at their history you will discover that all of these nations had a well educated, disciplined work force that lifted the country from poverty and after that they started to have democracy. Give me good education, good judiciary and I will give the genesis for democracy.
Now, some people will say through democracy all of this could be achieved. My answer is simple, how can you tell an individual to practice democracy if he or she doesn’t believe in it in the first place? How can you make a person democratic while he thinks that he owns his wife or sister and if (god forbid) his sister commits adultery, or marry someone outside the sect, he has all the right in the world to butcher her like an ewe and say” I have washed my honor from disgrace” or “my finger shamed me and I cut it off” and after killing his sister he will be treated as a hero by his community.

May 10th, 2007, 5:43 pm


trustquest said:

Who are you someone,
are you Bashar with some billions dollars. You still can start a venture in Syria and create that smart educated citizen, I think.

May 10th, 2007, 6:42 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Someone said:

Have you every sat down with an illiterate nomad or a peasant and talked with him about democracy?


My undrstanding of the French Revolution and Bastille Day was exactly that, the illiterate and poor over-ran the monarchy and created a democracy.

Ya’ani, the poor and the illiterate know MORE than you and I that they need education, food and shelter and a government that listens.

May 11th, 2007, 12:11 am


SyriaComment » Archives » “Sufism and Salafism in Syria” by Itzchak Weismann said:

[…] This is the second article in a series on Salafi and Sufi influences on Islam in Syria. Article one is here.  […]

May 11th, 2007, 5:53 am


a-baluzi said:

Not to underrate the French revolution, but it was exactly this: a revolution. It got rid of all the power structures and privileges of the catholic church and the aristocracy, and although it laid a foundation for later democracy, it did not create a democracy. Instead followed nearly a hundred years of chaos and changing regimes and the famous rule of Napoleon.

A huge challenge in any country with no prior culture for a civil society and widespread poverty is to make people vote according to what they believe is best either for themselves (every man for himself) or for the country. What you unfortunately see in many countries with sectarian conflict or economic differences following these, are parties and subsequent voting along sectarian lines. Is that democracy? In my opinion, true democracy is when people vote according to the ideology or politics they believe are best for the type of development they want, not what they are told to vote by their religious or clan leaders who they believe know their interests and they trust more than the politicians.

Education is an extremely important prerequisite for a functioning democracy (at least if we’re talking about the Western, liberal kind).

May 11th, 2007, 9:55 am


someone said:

This would have been my statement about the French revolution.

May 11th, 2007, 2:53 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Well said, but voting is just one small part of liberal democracy. The presence of functioning institutions, respected and independent judiciary, and a liberal society (where freedom of religion, association, speech, and protection from overreaching government) are all prerequisites to a sustained democracy. If people don’t respect a traffic cop or civil judge, there is no liberal democracy no matter how many times they go to the voting booth.

May 11th, 2007, 3:37 pm


a-baluzi said:

Without doubt, FP. Which is why people can’t agree on what should come first or what can be introduced without the other.
And…which countries are actually democracies… 🙂

May 11th, 2007, 5:05 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Agree. Spain or Chile can offer good historical lessons.

May 11th, 2007, 8:12 pm


Le Qatar finance l’Islam Wahhabite en France, Italie, Espagne et Irlan – La progressiste said:

[…] de cette mosquée en Italie sont sous le contrôle exclusif des Frères Musulmans, qui sont lourdement influencés par l’idéologie wahhabite subventionnée par le Qatar, autant que par l’Arabie […]

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Qatar Financing Wahhabi Islam in France, Italy, Ireland and Spain – The progressist said:

[…] of the mosques in Italy are controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, which is heavily influenced by the Wahhabi ideology subsidized by Qatar as well as Saudi […]

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