A group of Syrian opposition activists announced Thursday the creation of a council designed to present a united front against President Bashar Assad’s regime, which has waged a bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters during the past six months. The Syrian opposition consists of a variety of groups with often differing ideologies, including Islamists and secularists, and there have been many meetings of dissidents who say they represent the opposition. But activists said the new “Syrian National Council,” formed during a meeting in Turkey, is the most serious initiative aimed at bringing revolutionary forces together. It groups some 140 opposition figures, including exiled opponents and 70 dissidents inside Syria, said Bassma Kodmani, a Paris-based academic. Kodmani added that the council “categorically opposes” any foreign intervention or military operations to bring down Assad’s regime….. Louay Safi, a U.S.-based academic, said the council is broad-based and includes Sunnis, Shiites, Alawites, Kurds and members of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is “open to everyone unless they are against democracy,” he said
An AFP news photo shows Dr. Safi at the center of the group of council members who announced the formation of the council at a press conference in Turkey.
Dr. Safi was born and educated in Damascus and came to the U.S. sometime during the early 1980’s, likely around the time of the infamous “Hama Rebellion” when then Syrian President Hafez al-Assad brutally crushed an uprising in the city of Hama and many members of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood fled abroad. Following the awarding of his PH.D in the U.S., Dr. Safi reports that in May 1992, he became an associate professor of political science at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), closely associated with the global Muslim Brotherhood, and later became a Deputy Dean and then Dean of the Research Centre and College of Islamic Knowledge and Human Sciences. U.S. court records indicate that in 1995, Dr. Safi was in phone contact with convicted Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Sami Al- Arian. According to a transcript of the intercepted conversation, the two discussed President Clinton’s new executive order banning financial transactions with terrorist groups including the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. In 1998, Dr. Safi was a member of the advisory council of a journal published by the United Association for Studies and Research (UASR), a part of the Palestine Committee of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood which was closely tied to Hamas. In January 1999, Dr. Safi reports that he became the Research Director for the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), an important part of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood. Also in January 1999, Dr. Safi says he was a founding member of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) whose other founding members included several individuals associated with IIIT. CSID is also part of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood and has close relations with the U.S. State Department. In January 2000, Dr. Safi says he became editor of the American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, the publication of the Association of Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS), headquartered at IIIT. From January 2001 to January 2003, Dr. Safi says he was also AMSS President. In January 2003, Dr. Safi says he ended his position at IIIT and in January 2004 became Executive Director of the Leadership Development Center of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), another important part of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood. In November 2005, Dr. Safi became Chairman of the newly established Syrian American Congress, described on its website as …a grassroots organization devoted to promoting educational, civic, economic, and human development, as well as advancing civil liberties and human dignity in Syria.” In January 2005, local media report indicates that Dr. Safi was identified as Unindicted Co-Conspirator Four in the indictment against Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Sami Al-Arian. The report notes that Dr. Safi was the research director at IIIT which provided Al-Arian’s think tank with the bulk of its financial support.In September 2009, Dr. Safi became the ISNA Communications Director. Dr. Safi has been perhaps the leading voice at ISNA in complaining that criticism of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood is a form of “Muslim bashing.”
A previous post discussed Dr. Safi’s suspension as a lecturer for the U.S. military pending a criminal inquiry.
Another post discussed leaked diplomatic cables showing that the U.S. State Department secretly financed Syrian opposition groups and related projects, including a satellite TV station whose news director may have a brother with ties to the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. In 2007, the Wall Street Journal reported on moves by the U.S. Government to reach closer relations with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.