Abdul Munim Halima (Abu Basir al-Tartusi), a Syrian previously based in London, is an important jihadi-salafist scholar, who has diverged from some aspects of jihadism since the 7 July 2005 massacre on the London subway system by al-Qaeda. As the Syrian rebellion has progressed, Halima has departed even further from key jihadi ideologues that continue to take al-Qaeda’s line and support its branch in the country, Jabhat al-Nusra, which formed as a splinter from the Islamic State and has now rebranded itself as Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham. Halima has long expressed the view that al-Nusra and its leader, Ahmad al-Shara (Abu Muhammad al-Jolani), were insufficiently focused on Syrian needs. Halima tended to favour Ahrar al-Sham, an insurgent group with deep links to al-Qaeda, but which has presented its jihadism within a more nationalistic framework. Halima retains sway over Islamist opinion, especially in Syria, so his fatwa today calling for al-Shara to be put on trial for crimes against the Syrian revolution is noteworthy. Halima was especially exercised that the recent attempts by al-Shara to separate his organization from al-Qaeda came so long—and so unconvincingly—after so many had begged him for so long to carry out this policy. Instead, says Halima, al-Shara bullied and dominated the Syrian insurgency in the north under the flag of al-Qaeda, providing the regime of Bashar al-Assad with an alibi for his barbaric conduct in suppressing the insurrection. This is one of several “crimes” Halima says al-Shara should face a court for. The fatwa is reproduced below with some editions to transliteration and syntax.
The Trial of Al-Jolani
Several mistakes and crimes are ascribed to al-Jolani that collectively amount to the degree of high treason to al-Sham [Syria], its people and revolution.
Including: Him being the direct cause of Da’esh [the Islamic State] entering Syria, and their consolidation in Syria and on the necks of the people of Syria. So he was a delegate from them and then facilitated and enabled for them. The subsequent quarrel between them about the leadership does not negate this truth.
Including: After he removed the cloak of the wicked Dawaesh Khawarij, he put on an al-Qaeda cloak in order to benefit from the name al-Qaeda in the confrontation with his emir, [Abi Bakr] al-Baghdadi, emir of the Dawaesh Khawarij. He worked painstakingly to dress the Syrian revolution in an al-Qaeda cloak and to al-Qaeda-ize the revolution, apathetic to the great harm this affiliation caused for Syria, its people, and revolution. By doing so he furnished the criminal tyrant Bashar al-Assad with strength and life and made it easier for him to commit his criminal deeds, aiding him to murder the Syrian people, carry out his massacres and crimes under the pretext of combating al-Qaeda, as he still does. Like he panicked with this the whole world regarding Syria, its people and revolution and gave an easy pretext for colonial invaders to invade, corrupt and commit crimes in Syria!
After the effect of the cloak of al-Qaeda ceased and he became an outcast internally (even) more than externally he took off his al-Qaeda cloak—five years after the start of the revolution, after ignoring the appeal made to him by the scholars and wise men to end the harm of this title to Syria and its people—to consequently put on the cloak of Al-Jabhat [Fatah al-Sham] and Al-Hay’at [Tahrir al-Sham]. The name changed but nothing changed from his ways, approach and actions!
Including: His tyranny and robbery towards many groups, maqars, and weapons of the mujahideen from the Free Syrian Army, impeding their security. So he ejected from the Land of ribat, jihad, and deeds more than twenty active mujahid factions. To this date he does not stop the practice of robbery and exclusion, giving direct service to the criminal tyrant Bashar al-Assad and his cursed sectarian regime.
Including: His arbitrarily killing and arresting many of the active and effective actors of the revolution, from among those who oppose him and don’t share his approach and ways. The names and cases of these people are recollected when conducting the trial.
Including: His eviction of thousands of Syrian mujahid youths and active revolutionary cadres, as a result of his wrong practice and behaviour mentioned above; a forced eviction to outside Syria, to go astray in the (foreign) lands and overseas!
Up until this point, despite the numerous mistakes that have been attributed to him by the lights of the Syrian revolution, Syria, and its people, it is not known from him having apologized once to Syria and its people for a single one of these mistakes!
For these crimes and mistakes—and maybe there are other defects that will have arisen by then—we demand that a just, shar’i, revolutionary, public trial be carried out for Abu Muhammad al-Jolani. If he were innocent of what is attributed to him, he will be cleared. If he is a wrongdoer and criminal, he will have a reckoning for his mistakes and actions according to the judgment of the fair judiciary. This is not an exclusive personal demand, rather a demand from many scholars and callers to Islam from Syria, as well as many heads and cadres of the Syrian revolution.
Or do our courts sentence the weak and poor only, while the strong are above the court, questioning, and accountability?!
Shaykh Abu Basir al-Tartusi