Syrian Muslim Brotherhood Trying To Take Larger Role In Protests


The Wall Street Journal has reported that the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has said that it was trying to take a larger role in organizing theSyrian protests. According to the report:

The exiled Muslim Brotherhood of Syria, the only anti-regime group to ever seriously challenge the Assad government, said it was trying to take a larger role in organizing the disparate opposition as Syria’s street protests appear to wane. The move from the banned and exiled group could capitalize on an apparent deadlock between protesters and President Bashar al-Assad’s government, as opposition activists fail to coalesce into a solid front. Despite years of shifting alliances and a recent internal struggle for leadership, the Syria Brotherhood’s role as one of the oldest organized antigovernment movements could prove effective amid the power void of Syria’s opposition. ‘We have a desire to coordinate the position of the opposition,’ said Zuhair Salim, a spokesman for Syria’s Brotherhood based in London, which is loosely affiliated with other Arab Muslim Brotherhood movements. ‘We are supporters, and not creators. The voice of the street is a spokesperson for itself.’ His comments reflect a cautious position calibrated to avoid claiming leadership of a protest movement Mr. Assad’s government has characterized as run by armed, extremist Islamist groups. The Brotherhood poses a particular problem for some of the antiregime activists trying to forge secular coalitions more in line with the street movement. Mr. Salim has become increasingly vocal since the Brotherhood in late April backed the protest movement, appearing on Arabic-language television programs to support what the group has called a ‘peaceful, popular intifada,’ or resistance. On Sunday, two days after Syria’s government said it would start a ‘national dialogue’—and on a day of protests in which at least six people were killed— the Brotherhood slammed the initiative and said it would ‘deploy our full energy to back and support’ protesters. Mr. Salim said on Monday the group wasn’t taking a stronger line, and will not call people onto the streets.

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In 1982 Hafez Assad, the father of the current Syrian President, launched massive military action against an uprising by the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood in the city of Hama. As a result of this action, large parts of the city were destroyed resulting in an estimated 20,000 deaths. Numerous Syrian Muslim Brothers fled the country and joined the global jihadist network and, until recently, there was no public evidence that the the remaining elements of Syrian Brotherhood leadership in exile were interacting with the global Muslim Brotherhood. This appeared to have been changing in the wake of the 2009 Gaza crisis when a previous post discussed a U.K. Gaza “victory celebration” that featured a list of participants that included Ali Sadruddin Bayanouni, the head of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood in exile living in London, together with global Brotherhood leaders such as Kemal Al-Helbawy and Rachid Ghannouchi. Another post noted that Bayanouni said in a TV interview that he had met with global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi in Doha and that a report by a private forecasting group suggested that Qaradawi was helping to mediate a “rapprochement” between the Syrian Brotherhood and the Syrian regime.

In 2007, the Wall Street Journal reported on moves by the U.S. Government to reach closer relations with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.

For a comprehensive account of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, go here.

For a comprehensive account of Islamist activities in Syria, go here.

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