In the last month, the Islamic State (IS) has been waging a concerted campaign to shut down all independent sources of information emanating from its statelet. IS’s focus has been on Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS), an activist group that began in April 2014 in IS’s de facto capital in northern Syria. RBSS has published information—including pictures and videos, much of it via Twitter—on the crimes of the “caliphate”. IS has now murdered at least five RBSS journalists and activists, two of them on foreign soil in Turkey, plus the father of one of RBSS’s founders. (The sixth case, also in Turkey, is more murky.) The suppression of independent media by IS is necessary to allow the group to maintain social control of the areas it rules and to sustain the narrative that it is building utopia on earth, which attracts in the foreign fighters that help IS maintain and expand its territory. Continue reading →
A council of ulema (clerics), some within Syria and some abroad, al-Majlis Shura Ahl al-ilm fil-Sham (Advisory Council of the People of Knowledge in Syria), was formed late last month. Its first statement was to condemn the 25 July assassination of the Faylaq al-Sham commander Mazin al-Qassum by Islamic State (IS) operatives with Jund al-Aqsa, and to demand that all groups clarify their stance on IS and expel IS agents and sympathizers from their ranks. A fatwa early this month said it was permissible to work with Turkey against IS and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which in Syria operates politically under the name of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and militarily as the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Among the leading names associated with this new council are three foreign Islamist scholars: Umar al-Hadouchi, a Moroccan jihadi-salafist; Muhammad al-Hassan Ould al-Dedew al-Shinqiti (not to be confused with Abu al-Mundhir al-Shinqiti), a Mauritanian more closely aligned with Sururism than outright jihadism; and Abdallah al-Muhaysini, a Saudi jihadist who is inside Syria and a member of al-Qaeda in everything but name. Prominent Syrians involved include Dr. Ayman al-Harush, associated with Ahrar al-Sham, and another Ahrar member, a shar’i, Mohamed Ayman Aboul-Tout (Abu Abbas al-Shami), who fought against the Assad regime during the revolt in the 1980s as part of the most extreme Islamist splinter from the Muslim Brotherhood, the Fighting Vanguard. There is also the son of Abd al-Karim, an important figure in the Hama branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sa’ad al-Uthman; a follower of the ideas of Muhammad Surur that mix Salafism with political agitation, Ahmad al-Salum, and many others.
Majlis Shura Ahl al-ilm fil-Sham put out a statement today, “Response of the Ulema of Sham to Shaykh Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi”. Al-Maqdisi’s real name is Issam al-Barqawi; he is based in Jordan and is the most influential jihadi-salafist cleric. The Council attacks al-Maqdisi for what they perceive as his softness toward IS. The statement, translated by @nasrshahada, is reproduced below. Continue reading →
Just over a week ago, a new clerical body was formed, al-Majlis Shura Ahl al-ilm fil-Sham (Advisory Council of the People of Knowledge in Syria), which includes Islamists from within Syria and from outside. Among the notable foreigners are Umar al-Hadouchi, a Moroccan jihadi-salafist, and Muhammad Ould al-Dedew, a Mauritanian who is more in line with the Sururis. There is also Abdallah al-Muhaysini, the Saudi jihadi cleric who is very close to al-Qaeda’s leadership inside Syria. From among Syrians, there are two Ahrar al-Sham notables, Dr. Ayman al-Harush and Mohamed Ayman Aboul-Tout (Abu Abbas al-Shami); Sa’ad al-Uthman, the son of Abd al-Karim, a major figure in the Hama wing of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, and Ahmad al-Salum, a Sururi (an activist/political Salafi).
The Council’s first statement condemned the 25 July assassination of the Faylaq al-Sham commander Mazin al-Qassum by Islamic State (IS) operatives with Jund al-Aqsa, and demanded that all groups clarify their stance on IS and cleanse their ranks of IS agents and sympathizers. Today’s fatwa, “Concerning cooperation and coordination with the Turks in repelling Daesh and the PKK,” licensed Muslims to work with the Turkish government against IS and the PKK. The fatwa is reproduced below. Continue reading →