Friday, February 24, 2006

Islamic Radicalisation in Syria.

"The danger is the influence of Salafism and Wahhabism from Saudi Arabia"

For centuries, the traditional sound of Islam coming from the northern Syrian town of Aleppo, has been the rhythmical chanting of the word "Allah", as men young and old rock back and forth in a small room in the back of a house.
Beating their drums, chanting faster and faster, the men hope to achieve a trance that will bring them closer to God in the traditions of the mystical or Sufi Islam.
The musical capital of the Arab world in many ways, Aleppo's song and dance have been heavily influenced by Sufism.
But today, it is mostly a very austere call to prayer that can be heard around the city as a growing number of women adopt the full Islamic cover, hiding their hands and faces behind back cloth.
Religion is making a comeback in Syria, where people feel the state's socialist and pan-Arab ideologies have failed for the last four decades.

"We have a phenomenon of radicalisation taking place in schools and university," said Salam Kawakibi, a political analyst in Aleppo.
Mr Kawakibi said he was shocked when he was recently asked to get out of a city cab because the driver could smell he had a bottle of arak, a local aniseed sprit, with him; alcohol is banned by Islam.
"The danger is the influence of Salafism and Wahhabism from Saudi Arabia, because all the Syrians who work there, come back with new practices which they impose on their families and entourage," Mr Kawakibi said.
Co-opting Islam
After ruthlessly crushing a Muslim Brotherhood rebellion in 1982, the Syrian government has found it is unable to contain the rise of religion.
So instead, the authorities have decided to go with the trend and co-opt the symbols of Islam.
"After the clashes of 1980, the state tried to create an official Islam. They encouraged the building of mosques and the creation of religious schools. They think it is a way to control society," Mr Kawakibi said.
"Before, government officials started their speeches with secular phrases, now they start with 'Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim'," the Arabic for, "In the name of God, most gracious, most merciful".
Syria's staunchly secular Baath party encouraged people to go to the mosque in order to keep them away from politics.
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