By Reem Haddad
‘’God is Great ‘’ the oft repeated words that one can hear everywhere in the Muslim world. They are an intrinsic part of the Islamic culture- said during prayer and chanted from off the rooftops of minarets. The words are used to celebrate the greatness and goodness of god. They are used to indicate a kind deed or good fortune. And for those Muslims not living in the Muslim world listening to them is like coming back home. They offer a sense of security , peace and yes happiness. But all that was in the past!
Allahu Akbar has within the past two years in Syria taken a different –unfortunately contradictory- meaning. For it has been abused and the name of Allah taken in vain time and time again. It is almost blood curdling to hear it now for it often heralds news of a death , an explosion , a murder or an execution. Usually shouted by heavily bearded men with fanatical eyes just before committing an atrocity . A completely alien image to the Syria most Syrians know!
A lot of them are unknown militants coming from many different groups each with their own plans and agendas ! But what they all have in common is their abuse of religion to promote whatever action they undertake. Choosing poor and uneducated societies to inhabit they grow in popularity , telling people how to think and what to dress in. Such societies are fertile ground for extreme Islamists. They are societies rife with corruption and brutality where execution of the kidnapped is based on his/her sect or the place of work. Sharia courts are common procedure there where sentencing is passed and implemented immediately.
A lot of these fundamentalists pre dominantly come from the country side ( as in Aleppo ) which further alienates them from the urban dwellers of the city who had always lived in peace and relative economic comfort with almost no interference from the government.
It is very difficult to pinpoint who these groups belong to. They are not all Jubhat Al Nusra. A lot of them belong to similar groups financed and armed by different countries. For instance Saudi will finance and arm the insurgents in Daraa . Jordan will train them . Qatar will finance those in Idlib. Turkey will provide the logistics ( Aleppo being the biggest recipient ). Britain and France pretend to only want to finance and arm the opposition and not the extremists. All in all it is chaos which often leads to mayhem.
This is also a direct result of an unrecognizable opposition- One that is hampered by infighting and a lack of structure and deeply infiltrated by foreign fighter and terrorist groups.
And all these groups and what is happening in Syria will give Islam a bad name for a long time and will set back Syrians who are proud and happy to be Muslims – to be part of a religion where even the basic greeting is an invitation to peace . A Religion where negotiation is accredited and where its role is to facilitate the lives of its followers rather than to make difficulties . It will take a long time for Syrians to forgive what is being done in Syria to Islam, equating that heavenly religion with terrorism, fanaticism and hatred .