Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Connecting the Dots on the Rioting Over Cartoons

The cartoon riots and events in the Middle East are definitely interrelated but some things pop out.

Anti-Assad groups join forces to topple the Assad regime:
Former Syrian Vice President Abdel-Halim Khaddam and the exiled leader of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood agreed on Wednesday to join forces to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

A source at Khaddam's office said the former official held talks with Ali Bayanouni, head of the Sunni Islamist group, in Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"There was agreement on a joint vision to save Syria from the crisis that the regime has placed it in," the source told Reuters in Beirut by telephone. "It was also agreed to contact other opposition leaders inside and outside Syria to come up with a joint plan of action."
The Muslim Brotherhood is behind all manner of bad stuff over the years. From the assassination of Anwar Sadat to the spread of fundamentalism throughout the Middle East, the Brotherhood has had a bloody and violent history. As much as Assad needs to be deposed, the Brotherhood isn't the one anyone in their right mind would want to see take his place.

The Brotherhood has its fingers in the current rioting spurred by the Danish cartoons.
But how representative of Islam are all those demonstrators? The "rage machine" was set in motion when the Muslim Brotherhood--a political, not a religious, organization--called on sympathizers in the Middle East and Europe to take the field. A fatwa was issued by Yussuf al-Qaradawi, a Brotherhood sheikh with his own program on al-Jazeera. Not to be left behind, the Brotherhood's rivals, Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami (Islamic Liberation Party) and the Movement of the Exiles (Ghuraba), joined the fray. Believing that there might be something in it for themselves, the Syrian Baathist leaders abandoned their party's 60-year-old secular pretensions and organized attacks on the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus and Beirut.

The Muslim Brotherhood's position, put by one of its younger militants, Tariq Ramadan--who is, strangely enough, also an adviser to the British home secretary--can be summed up as follows: It is against Islamic principles to represent by imagery not only Muhammad but all the prophets of Islam; and the Muslim world is not used to laughing at religion. Both claims, however, are false.
The Assad regime may be trying to coopt the Brotherhood - or at least some factions within the Brotherhood by going after the Western Embassies, not only to maintain its Muslim credentials, but to simply maintain its power base. The Brotherhood has been a historical threat to the Assads over the years, and Hafez Assad wiped out the city of Hama to rid himself of the Brotherhood threat. Tens of thousands of people were killed in that operation.


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