Allah needs no armed militias bearing His name

Defeating the Islamist armies and preserving the institution of the state provide a better fate for Syria.
Sunday 08/04/2018
A member of the Syrian pro-government forces holds an Islamic State flag near the village of Dibsiafnan on the western outskirts of Raqqa, last June. (AFP)
Between two evils. A member of the Syrian pro-government forces holds an Islamic State flag near the village of Dibsiafnan on the western outskirts of Raqqa, last June. (AFP)

Allah has no need for armies of violent, mean and uncivilised hordes to spread His word and He certainly does not need to charge gangs of ignorant, illiterate and dim-witted people to defend Him and His Prophet. The only thing these people are good at is hiding behind His name while they cheat and oppress.

No. Religion is not to hate and resent bitterly nor is it to fanatically defend one’s view or belief. It is not about growing a wild beard or burning one’s forehead to show one’s devoutness. It is not about spreading fantasies, deifying the dead or idolising tombs.

It breaks my heart and the heart of any reasonable, fair, peace-loving human to see these self-appointed religious experts form gangs, armies and militias that they label with one of Allah’s names, then go on rampages in that name. They burn their opponents alive and without reason, kidnap, cheat, lie, behead, rape Muslim and Christian females and steal from private homes, banks and other institutions.

It pains me more to know that they name themselves God’s sign or proof (ayatollah or hojatollah) and God-appointed caretaker (waliyullah). The names they choose for their factions, brigades and parties, regardless of whether they are Sunni or Shia, must in one way or another indicate that they have been licensed by the Almighty to speak and act on His behalf.

What occasioned this diatribe was news of Army of Islam factions having been driven out of Eastern Ghouta by the Syrian regime under the protection of the Russian Army and with the help of Iranian militias.

I believe that Bashar Assad, his father before him, his brothers, his Shabiha thugs and the rest of his oppressive machine are all at the top of the list of bloodthirsty human predators. Their existence shames not only Syria and the Arabs but also Russia, Iran, China, the United States, Europe and all of humanity. Those who have tried to overthrow him, fought him and tried to take his place are no better than the whole shebang and no less savage or treacherous.

Our bitter experience in Iraq has taught us that it is far better to maintain a rotten dictatorship but that is weakened, hated and hounded by its own subjects from inside and by its many enemies from outside than to have in its stead all of these criminal gangs specialising in assassinations, kidnappings, theft and smuggling explosives and drugs or all of those traitors working for this or that country or for these or those intelligence services. All of them have yet to show us a shred of evidence of their patriotism or that they are fighting for their people’s freedom, dignity and security.

Let’s imagine for a moment that the Army of Islam, al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State defeated Assad’s armies. Surely, we would see the immediate rise of a Nuri al-Maliki in Aleppo, a Hadi al-Amiri in Hama, an Ammar al-Hakim in Shaam, an Iyad Allawi in Homs and an Osama al-Najafi in Daraa. All of these “nice” people and their respective parties and militias would negotiate with each other while at the same time car bombing each other.

They would proceed to lay their hands on the wealth of the country and mark their territories by militarily occupying this city or that neighbourhood just as has been going on for years in Libya, Iraq, Yemen or Lebanon. The first victims of these militias are often their own people, who will never again know the meaning of peace or security.

Very soon the well will run dry and smuggling weapons and drugs will flourish. That’s when the poor, worn-out citizens can kiss any hope for a state of law and human dignity goodbye.

I am by no means defending Assad nor am I clearing Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and the Iraqi militias of their crimes against humanity in Syria. I will never do that.

But how can we choose between two evils?

Defeating the Islamist armies and preserving the institution of the state, even with a ruffian such as Assad at the helm, provide a better fate for Syria because the Syrians will preserve a glimpse of hope that one day the interests and positions of the superpowers will converge to cause a change in the country. Russia will have no choice but to stop supporting a corrupt regime that is hated by its people and neighbours and Iran will not be able to do a thing to stop the regime change.

There is one more important difference between the Assad regime and the Islamist hordes. Assad does not pretend to be mandated by Allah and is not conducting his war against Syrian citizens in the name of Allah and His Prophet, which makes his defeat likely to happen when conditions are ripe. That won’t happen with the Islamist hordes.

Despite all the evil of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, our people have always carried the hope of being able to change it from inside and without resorting to foreign help and occupation. With appropriate pressure from foreign friends and foes, the dictator might have been persuaded to step down, leaving functioning state institutions protected by the army and the police. Free and fair elections would have been possible in Iraq and we would have been spared the evil effects of this or that militia or this or that fatwa or this or that embassy.

To my Syrian brothers, I say do not despair because the regime’s army is back in Eastern Ghouta. The opposition armies wouldn’t have treated you any better. Look instead at the silver lining behind the cloud.