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Once upon a time, a man from Homs… - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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There has been a clear qualitative shift in the political discourse of some Islamic movements these days. They have managed to adopt a “new” tone, use “different” terminology, and appear in a more “appropriate” form.

The Muslim Brotherhood movement has realized the importance of its political discourse. This became apparent in the wake of the Egyptian revolution through the emergence of a recognized Brotherhood political entity, namely the “Freedom and Justice” party. However, it is obvious for any careful objective observer that there are differences between the discourse of the Brotherhood and that of its party. On the surface, it appears that the Muslim Brotherhood’s discourse is traditional, stricter, less flexible and less capable of coexisting with others and accepting them. Meanwhile, on the contrary, the Freedom and Justice party’s discourse is more “pragmatic” and flexible; its terminology bears a more political, legal and constitutional stamp rather than a juristic, religious and ideological one.

According to some political affairs analysts, particularly those observing Islamic movements in the Arab World, this growing disparity [between Islamic movements and their political wings] is liable to turn into a perpetual gap, potentially leading to the rise of two different ideologies over the course of time. Some believe that Islamic movements’ political parties will become something akin to the “Christian” parties in Germany, Spain and other Western European countries, which gave themselves religious identities in order to attract the largest possible portion of voters in societies where religion plays a vital role.

The current qualitative shift does not relate exclusively to Egypt. We can also see it in Tunisia, Morocco, Palestine, Jordan and of course Turkey. Each case stands on its own merits, but the intended meaning is clear: Politics is a vast and deep sea and it will never allow extremist discourse to have an effective presence. This is a fact that has been realized by the representatives of extremist Islamic movements that have become involved in politics lately. Whereas previously these movements would have occupied themselves with marginal matters, they now accept that what is most important is to preserve the livelihood of people, guarantee their freedom and dignity, and achieve justice on their behalf. As a result, the speculation raised by some Western governments that Syria could fall in the hands of al-Qaeda seems to be very naïve. Some even argue that al-Qaeda will cross over from Iraq to carry out Jihad on Syrian soil, in order to topple the tyrannical regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Syria and the Syrians are way too smart to accept the hegemony of al-Qaeda and its affiliates. Nevertheless, the shameful failure of the international community to put an end to the appalling massacres perpetrated by the al-Assad regime against its own people provides more room for the deterioration of the situation in Syria, and for the collapse of any possibility for a “solution.” Other parties have now interfered with their own interests and motives, trying to prove themselves and re-establish their status in the international political arena.

For more than 25 days, the al-Assad regime has been trying to level Homs, and particularly the Baba Amr district, using tank shells, missiles, bombs and helicopters, blocking the delivery of foodstuffs, contaminating drinking water, and preventing access to medicine. However, the inhabitants of this district have continued to resist the al-Assad regime’s queues of tanks and armored vehicles, even managing “liberate” some sites in the old district of Homs by virtue of the city’s residents and elements of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). They have also managed to break the military siege in order to smuggle out a group of foreign journalists, transferring them safely to Lebanon. This happened despite al-Assad’s troops reaching the journalists’ convoy and firing upon it, thereby resulting in the death of 13 accompanying members of the FSA.

Walid Jumblatt said it loud and clear: The fall of Homs at the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his regime would mean that the revolution has been suppressed, whereas its liberation at the hands of the revolutionaries would mean a triumph. Meanwhile, Bashar al-Assad has his own ambitions. If he loses Syria, he might resort to dividing the country and annexing areas including Jabal al-Alaween and the Syrian coast, with Homs as the capital due to its sizeable Alawite community. Al-Assad might even get more ambitious and annex Tripoli in Lebanon, due to the presence of an Alawite community there as well. Indeed, this is the prediction of some people from the closest inner circle to Bashar al-Assad.

Indicators show that the latest round of voting on the new constitution was a complete sham. The regime announced it had counted the votes of over 8.5 million citizens in less than a 24 hour period, resulting in 89 percent approval for the new proposals. Yet this is in a country where more than two weeks are needed to issue any official document!

No one was convinced by the constitution charade, and the regime realized that the world did not take that bait. It now seems that the regime is considering all available options in case it loses control of the Syrian territories. It appears the regime may try and kindle sectarian violence in the region by deliberately bombarding and shelling some Christian areas to intimidate the population there. There are reports indicating that the Syrian regime has practically lost control of around 60 percent of Syrian territories. With the anticipated qualitative armament of the FSA – with effective anti-aircraft missiles, tanks and night-vision goggles – the path to a decisive victory has become visible.

The farcical new constitution and the decision to hold a referendum on it amidst pools of blood is yet another fiasco on the part of a dying regime. However, the responsibility of saving the Syrian people remains to be a task that must be undertaken by those honorable enough. Then Homs will not fall and it will bear witness to the most beautiful story of all: Once upon a time, a man from Homs said “I want to topple the al-Assad regime”…and he did it.

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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