Most popular on Closer last week

  1. Surveillance: Veiligheid, Risico en Nederlanders in Syrië
  2. Marriage as punishment: documentary about women’s rights in Morocco by Hasna Ankal {Al.arte.magazine}
  3. European and non-European Philosophers as public intellectuals

Featuring: Sectarianism and Syria
Stop Trying to Make Syria’s War Into a Sectarian Conflict – Atlantic Mobile

It paints a picture of a Middle Eastern conflict in which religious and sectarian differences inexorably determine political outcomes. Because it suggests that such violence is inevitable and may even be biologically or culturally predetermined, it exonerates the Assad regime and other countries that have failed to act even in the face of extreme state-sponsored violence against innocent civilians — as when Syrian government forces bound and shot 49 children during a massacre of 108 civilians in Houla last spring.

The sectarian story is also wrong for a less obvious reason. Syrians — the real people on the ground who happen to live in Syria — don’t conform to the sectarian stereotypes that policymakers and pundits are promoting with such gusto. Of course, some Syrians identify strongly with their ethnic or religious communities. But like people all over the world — including here in the United States — many Syrians hold multiple allegiances, sympathizing with more than one sectarian identity or none at all, or are of mixed backgrounds. […]
But this narrative — and the devastation that could come from it — can be avoided if we debunk at least three myths. First, sectarianism is not about intractable religiosity. […]
Second, Syrians have been mobilizing against Assad for reasons that are not in fact sectarian.[…]

Third, framing the war as sectarian is anything but objective.

In Lebanon, a proxy battle for Syria | GlobalPost

The bustling shipyards and seaside cafes of this Mediterranean port lend the city a veneer of normalcy. But residents tell a different story — one of extreme poverty, state neglect and vicious sectarian violence.

Foreign Fighters
Hundreds of Russian Islamists Fighting Assad in Syria, Expert Says | News | The Moscow Times

Rais Suleimanov, head of the Kazan-based Volga Center for Regional and Ethno-Religious Studies, said he got this number from Russian militants themselves, who he said have “no interest in exaggerating it.”

He said the militants come from CIS countries including Ukraine and from different regions of Russia, among them Tatarstan and the volatile North Caucasus, where Russian law enforcement is battling an intractable insurgency of separatist Islamist militants.

Other experts cast doubt on the reliability of the figure cited by Suleimanov, saying it was virtually impossible to verify. But they said that given Russia’s staunch support of the Assad regime, it would be natural for militants opposed to the Russian government to help fight a kind of proxy war in Syria.

With Official Wink And Nod, Young Saudis Join Syria’s Rebels : NPR

The Saudis are part of an inflow of Sunni fighters from Libya, Tunisia and Jordan, according to Aaron Zelin, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“Most of the foreigners are fighting with al-Nusra or Ahrar al-Sham,” both extremist groups, Zelin said.

Sunni extremist fighters are now part of a vicious civil war that has killed an estimated 70,000 people and created more than a million refugees.

Insight: Foreign fighters seek Islamic state in post-Assad Syria | Reuters

Huddled around a fire in a bombed-out building in Aleppo, foreign jihadists say they are fighting for a radical Islamic state in Syria – whether local rebels trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad like it or not.

Foreign Jihadists Declare War on Syria’s Assad – SPIEGEL ONLINE

Abu Rami’s last foray into war wasn’t much of a success. Just after his unit had crossed over the border, one of his men lost his wits. The young man cowered in the undergrowth, trembled and didn’t budge. Out of necessity, the whole unit had to come to a stop: Ten Lebanese, armed with 10 Kalashnikovs loaded with 65 magazines of ammunition, had come to a standstill inside the Syrian border, without any backup.

Syria presents foreign fighter list in bid for UN to acknowledge terror acts — RT News

Syria has presented the UN Security Council a list of 143 foreign citizens killed in Syria fighting government troops. Damascus hopes the move will force the UN to declare the presence of foreign nationals in Syria to be international terrorism.

­The Syrian government reportedly presented proof that citizens of 19 different nations had fought in the country alongside rebel forces.

West training Syrian rebels in Jordan | World news | guardian.co.uk

UK and French instructors involved in US-led effort to strengthen secular elements in Syria’s opposition, say sources

BBC News – Syria conflict: British fighters seek jihad

Militant groups thought to be linked to al-Qaeda are operating in the country. Among their ranks, a small number of young British men – at this stage, probably only running into the dozens – are joining this fundamentalist fringe, having been recruited from towns and cities across the UK.

Syria Crisis: Foreign Fighters Worry And Boost Syrian Rebels

The presence of foreign Islamic militants battling Syria’s regime is raising concerns over the possible injection of al-Qaida’s influence into the country’s civil war.

Syria’s rebels share some of those misgivings. But they also see in the foreign extremists a welcome boost: experienced, disciplined fighters whose battlefield valor against the better-armed troops of President Bashar Assad is legendary.

The Dutch Are Worried the Syrian War Is Headed Their Way – Dashiell Bennett – The Atlantic Wire

The government of the Netherlands raised its terror threat level to “substantial” today, amid fears that terrorists trained in Syria will try to disrupt the coronation of their new king. The head of Dutch counterterrorism says that as many as 100 Dutch citizens have traveled to Syria to join in the war there, and are returning angry, radicalized, and highly-trained to wreak havoc on Europe. He also cited an increased radicalization among Dutch youth in general, making them highly susceptible to recruitment by these returning jihadist fighters.

Syria backgrounder
Some old pics ~ Syria « pietervanostaeyen

No comments, just pics from the 19th and early 20th Century

A History Of Syria With Dan Snow – YouTube

Dan Snow travels to Syria to see how the current civil war has been shaped by the country’s tumultuous history, unpicking the historic divisions between the myriad factions.
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ln8-_9D_a88]

Syria Comment » Archives » The Free Syrian Army doesn’t exist

Is the FSA losing influence in Syria? How many people are in the FSA? Is the FSA receiving enough guns from the West, or too many? Will the FSA participate in elections after the fall of Bahar el-Assad? What is the ideology of the FSA? What’s the FSA’s view of Israel? Is Jabhat el-Nosra now bigger than the FSA? What does the FSA think about the Kurds? Who is the leader of the FSA? How much control does the central command of the FSA really have over their fighters?

All these and similar questions keep popping up in news articles and op-ed chinstrokers in the Western media, and in much of the Arabic media too.

They all deal with important issues, but they disregard an important fact: the FSA doesn’t really exist.

Tentative Jihad: Syria’s Fundamentalist Opposition – International Crisis Group

Prematurely and exaggeratedly highlighted by the regime, belatedly and reluctantly acknowledged by the opposition, the presence of a powerful Salafi strand among Syria’s rebels has become irrefutable. That is worrisome, but forms only part of a complex picture. To begin, not all Salafis are alike; the concept covers a gamut ranging from mainstream to extreme. Secondly, present-day Syria offers Salafis hospitable terrain – violence and sectarianism; disenchantment with the West, secular leaders and pragmatic Islamic figures; as well as access to Gulf Arab funding and jihadi military knowhow – but also adverse conditions, including a moderate Islamic tradition, pluralistic confessional make-up, and widespread fear of the kind of sectarian civil war that engulfed two neighbours. Thirdly, failure of the armed push this past summer caused a backlash against Salafi groups that grabbed headlines during the fighting.

American Anthropological Association: The Syrian Regime and the Opposition

Many Syrians are opposing the simplicity of overthrowing a regime when there is no viable alternative or any way to prevent an outright civil war. In a country that has a vivid memory of coups and counter-coups, this is a serious matter. Many Syrians have an uneasy relationship with the regime, but there was a social contract where the regime with its widespread security system and its many branches ensured stability and security as long as it was not challenged. It was something many Syrians were proud of, especially when neighboring countries were mired in civil war and ethnic strife. If the regime is gone, what comes next? Who is ready to take charge? There is no clear indication that a smooth transition will take place and a civil war does not look like a good idea. It remains to be seen if creative diplomatic efforts can find a way out of this quagmire, because a military option will only bring on more destruction.

Europe
Muslim helpline reveals majority of faith attacks on women | UK news | guardian.co.uk

The majority of Muslims physically attacked, harassed or intimidated because of their faith are women, according to the first results from the UK’s official helpline for victims of Islamophobia.

Frenchman rips off Muslim woman’s veil – Alarabiya.net English | Front Page

A Frenchman who ripped a Muslim woman’s veil off her face as she strolled in a fairground was Wednesday given a five-month suspended prison sentence and ordered to compensate his victim.

‘Real’ Dutch Muslimas Tackle Migration and Islamophobia

Al-Nisa’s campaigns are indeed a breath of fresh air with their positive images of Muslim women. While responding to political discourses is beneficial and interesting in that it shows an awareness of current debates, it also risks being reactive and risks perpetuating the discourses about who Muslims are and how they should integrate into mainstream Dutch society. It is important, as a movement of Muslim women, to find allies among all other Muslim women (such as Indonesian women, as a start) and other marginalised groups (such as Eastern Europeans).

In our attempt to show “who Muslims are,” we should be careful to not fall into the anti-immigrant, anti-asylum, and pro-integration lines of thinking of our host country. We can tackle Islamophobia by breaking down the ideologies behind such ideas, rather than by showing that we are not scary.

Misc.
Three Unconventional Documentaries from Gaza | Al Akhbar English

Awadallah explores Palestinian society in Gaza from many angles. She seems obsessed with her characters’ depth and believability. The filmmaker told Al-Akhbar, “Usually, the character itself lures me. Some people have a great and exciting story, but they can’t tell it. A film requires not only a good story, but also a good narrator.

Dutch
Moskee is flyeraars van radicale moslims zat – RELIGIE – PAROOL

Aanhangers van de radicale islamitische organisatie Hizb ut Tahrir (HuT) flyeren bij moskeeën voor een staat waarin de sharia de dienst uitmaakt. Moskee Badr in de Willem Leevendstraat in West heeft daar nu schoon genoeg van.

RTL Nieuws – Asscher praat met door moslims bedreigde jongerenwerker

Minister Lodewijk Asscher van Sociale Zaken gaat binnenkort praten met de Arnhemse jongerenwerker Mehmet Sahin. Die moest onlangs onderduiken nadat hij afstand had genomen van antisemitische opmerkingen van Turkse jongeren.

Honderd jihadstrijders uit Nederland – NOS Nieuws

Een kleine honderd Nederlandse moslims vechten op dit moment mee in landen als Afghanistan, Somalië en Syrië, melden bronnen aan de NOS. Het overgrote deel van hen is afgereisd naar Syrië.

Bruggenbouwers » Moslims Marokko hebben groot respect voor kloosterzusters

De bevolking van Marokko is voor 99% islamitisch. Niettemin hebben Karmelitessen en Clarissen er kloosters gesticht. Een bezoek aan de kerk van gebed.

Een omsloten contemplatief klooster midden in een islamitisch land? Zuster Maria Virtudes vindt de vraag heel gewoon. “Andere religieuze zusters in Europa vragen mij vaak wat het voor zin heeft een katholiek klooster te stichten in een land dat voor 99% islamitisch is”, zegt zij en ze lacht.

Antisemitisme in Arnhem

“We kunnen lang terug in de geschiedenis gaan en de islamcritici vertellen dat het antisemitisme toch vooral een Europese uitvinding is, we kunnen vertellen dat de grootste genocide ooit in Europa werd begaan door Europeanen, we kunnen vertellen dat Maarten Luther zich zeer laatdunkend uitliet over de joden, dat Hugo de Groot niet erg aardige uitspraken over de joden deed, en natuurlijk moeten de moslims zich bewust zijn van de op zijn zachtst gezegd niet erg vriendelijke woorden in de koran en islamitische traditie over de joden, over de verdrijving en moord op de joden in de oase van Medina. Het is een tragische opsomming van ellende.
Daarom denk ik dat de oplossing ook niet in de religies ligt.” Dat schrijft Jan Jaap de Ruiter om onderstaand blog.

Marokkaanse organisaties dreigen steun aan PvdA in te trekken

Marokkaanse organisaties hebben aan PvdA-voorzitter Spekman een brief geschreven waarin ze aankondigen Marokkaanse-Nederlanders sterk te zullen adviseren om niet op de PvdA te stemmen, wanneer de PvdA in de Eerste Kamer steun geeft aan het wetsvoorstel om de kinderbijslag en de uitkeringen voor nabestaanden in Marokko stop te zetten.
Het wetsvoorstel zal door PvdA minister Asscher aan de Eerste Kamer worden voorgelegd.

De Marokkaanse organisaties zullen de brief ook overhandigen aan hun lokale PvdA-afdeling. Hieronder de brief, die is ondertekend door Mohammed Rabbae en Abdou Menebhi. Het is onbekend namens hoeveel en welke organisaties de brief is geschreven.

Lodewijk Asscher reageert op open brief van Rabbae en Menebhi

Eerder deze maand schreven Mohammed Rabbae en Abdou Menebhi namens een onbekend aantal Marokkaanse organisaties een brief aan PvdA voorzitter Spekman. Ze lieten hierin weten Marokkaanse-Nederlanders sterk te zullen adviseren om niet op de PvdA te stemmen, wanneer de PvdA in de Eerste Kamer steun zou geven aan het wetsvoorstel om de kinderbijslag en de uitkeringen voor nabestaanden in Marokko stop te zetten.

PvdA minister Lodewijk Asscher die het voorstel aan de Eerste Kamer gaat voorleggen, reageert hieronder.

Radicaal of radeloos? Geïsoleerde moslima’s in Amsterdam

Afgelopen week leverde Vizea Adviseurs in opdracht van de gemeente Amsterdam een puik verkennend onderzoek af naar (potentiële) radicalisering van moslima´s. In het rapport ‘Radicaal (on)zichtbaar’ doen de onderzoekers verslag van hun bevindingen aan de hand van een indrukwekkende questionnaire, die zij voorlegden aan 155 jonge Amsterdamse islamitische vrouwen met verschillende etnische en culturele achtergronden en met – zo bleek – een rugzak vol problemen. 12 van hen die in de enquête hoog scoorden op vragen over geweldslegitimatie werden daarna uitvoerig ‘doorgelicht’.

De uitkomsten zijn niet direct schokkend. 7 % zegt weliswaar bereid te zijn zelf geweld te gebruiken als ‘hun geloof wordt bedreigd’, maar het veiligheidsrisico dat van de groep uitgaat is volgens de onderzoekers klein. Over de omvang van het aantal radicale moslima’s in de hoofdstad doen zij geen uitspraken, omdat gewerkt is met een beperkte en – belangrijker – selecte steekproef.