Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Al-Qaeda’s Syrian Revival, a Lesson for Egypt | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Rebels from al-Qaida affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra waving their brigade flag as they step on the top of a Syrian air force helicopter, at Taftanaz air base. (AP Photo)

One of the worst consequences of the Western and Arab worlds’ reluctance to topple Bashar Al-Assad has been Syria’s transformation into fertile ground for extremism and parasitic terrorist groups. By this I certainly do not mean the many honorable, moderate fighters who wish to overthrow Bashar the Bloody, and in his place establish a political system that respects justice and the rights of the people. Rather I mean the opportunistic few that exploit the resistance, such as Al-Qaeda and its ilk, who act on their belief that there can be no change without violence.

Al-Qaeda has received some devastating blows ever since its true cards became exposed. For despite its earlier claims that it was combating Zionist and American influence, the people have witnessed how its thirst for blood does not spare innocents, having killed scores of bystanders in its operations targeting economic and security facilities in Arab countries. Its appeal has plummeted and its propaganda has fallen on deaf ears. The Arab Spring hastened its decline, with the peoples of Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen proving that the path to change need not pass through the gates of violence and arms.

Now, in Syria, Al-Qaeda has found a wound in which to fester. The people’s uprising, at first a gift to the Arab and Muslim worlds, became overrun with parasites seeking only to rebuild their strength and exploit the enthusiastic young men who flocked to Syria in the hope of aiding its embattled people. Fears resound that Syria could well become another Afghanistan from which Al-Qaeda can propagate its perverted ideology across the Arab world, and thus usher in another wave of bombings, takfir (denouncing others as infidels), and bloodshed that will take decades to purge.

It may be too early to start drawing lessons from the Syrian revolution, but one thing is certain: The liberals, knowingly or unknowingly, fan Al-Qaeda’s fires whenever they fiercely oppose moderate Islamists, as is clearly the case currently in Egypt. The chaos caused by the violent clashes in Syria is what has allowed Al-Qaeda to thrive once again, fueled by the young Arabs who first came to Syria to take part in a revolution.

Another point which I doubt has escaped liberals is that, generally speaking, Al-Qaeda is unable to recruit new members itself; instead it leeches followers off the other, more peaceful Islamist movements (for example the Salafists, Muslim Brotherhood, Tabligh, and so on). The fierce battle in Egypt against the Brotherhood and the Salafists, who have both willingly subjected themselves to the principles of democracy and the peaceful of transfer of power, will drag the country into a downward spiral of self-perpetuating violence, with Al-Qaeda lurking in wait. An Al-Qaeda presence in the Egyptian arena is practically unheard of, just as it had been in Syria before the outbreak of the armed revolution.