The Financial Times is reporting that the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is planning to open offices inside Syria for the first time since it was quashed by then Syrian President Hafez Assad in 1982. According to the report:
Istanbul April 25, 2013 12:32 pm The Muslim Brotherhood is set to open offices inside Syria for the first time since the organisation was crushed there decades ago, in an apparent effort to capitalise on the increasingly Islamised rebellion.
Riad al-Shaqfa, the movement’s exiled leader, said in an interview with the Financial Times that a decision was recently taken to revive organisational structures inside Syria and followers have been asked to start opening party offices in rebel-held areas.
“In the beginning we said this is a time for revolution, not ideology. Now there are many groups inside so we feel we should reorganise,” he said, adding that the Brotherhood – a similar movement to its Egyptian counterpart – was hoping to promote a more moderate brand of Islamist thinking at a time of growing radicalisation.
The decision comes amid heated controversy over the Brotherhood’s behind-the-scenes influence on the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, and it is likely to be treated with suspicion by many of the group’s secular and liberal critics. At the same time, some in the opposition fear the Brotherhood’s efficiency, strong organisation and superior fundraising networks could enable them to dominate a fractured Syrian opposition.
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Although Mr Shaqfa says later in the article that the Brotherhood has only 10 per cent of the seats on the Syrian National Council (SNC), the reality is more complex. The Syrian National Coalition was created in November 2012 and included members from the Syrian National Council (SNC), an earlier group that was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report had also identified three SNC leaders that were tied to the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood as well as pointing out that Ghassan Hito, recently chosen by the Syrian National Coalition as its interim Prime Minister, was also part of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood. The SNC and Global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi enjoyed close relations and Moaz Khatib, identified above as the SNC President, is also close to the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.
In March, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry seemed to confirm that the U.S. was training Syrian rebels while in February Kerry pledged an additional $60 million in aid to Syrian opposition forces. In 2007, the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. government was meeting with and actually funding the Syrian opposition that included the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood:
The U.S. has traditionally avoided contact with the Brotherhood across the Middle East. But now the State Department and National Security Council have begun to hold regular strategy sessions on Syria policy with the NSF and is funding an organization linked to it. Senior officials from the State Department and the National Security Council confirm the meetings. The U.S. has also discussed with the NSF and linked groups ways to monitor elections and promote civil society in Syria.
A post from last week reported that the Muslim Brotherhood dominated Syrian opposition will begin establishing what is described as a “moderate form of Islamic law” in all areas of the country under their control.
For additional background, see “How the Muslim Brotherhood Hijacked Syria’s Revolution” written by Hassan Hassan, an editorial writer for The National.