Fighting fire with fire: Syria calls for jihad on jihadists

BEIRUT Mon Mar 11, 2013 9:34pm IST

A Free Syrian Army fighter points his weapon as others take position in the Al-Khalidiya neighbourhood of Homs March 6, 2013. REUTERS/Muhammad Ibrahim/Shaam News Network/Handout

A Free Syrian Army fighter points his weapon as others take position in the Al-Khalidiya neighbourhood of Homs March 6, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Muhammad Ibrahim/Shaam News Network/Handout

Related Topics

BEIRUT (Reuters) - One of the pillars of President Bashar al-Assad's leadership is secularism, but nearly two years into a fight which it says is spearheaded by hardline Islamist terrorists, Damascus has decided to employ its enemy's tactic: jihad.

The highest official Sunni Muslim body in Syria, closely linked to the government, issued a religious decree on Sunday calling on Syrians to join the military, which it called both "a national and a religious duty".

The Dar al-Ifta council said members of the Syrian army "raise up the words of God in our beloved country" in their "defence and jihad for Syria."

"We appeal to all people in Syria to stand in one rank along with the Syrian Arab Army," the council said in a statement.

Syria's revolt started with widespread peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms but turned into a civil war after Assad's forces shot dead demonstrators and arrested thousands.

Four decades of Assad family rule, who are from the minority Alawite sect, is now threatened by majority Sunni rebel groups.

Some Sunni Muslim clerics within Syria and abroad have called for jihad, or Islamic holy war, to topple Assad and some rebel units are bolstered by foreign fighters.

Residents of Damascus who heard the fatwa, or religious edict, delivered on Sunday on state TV seemed puzzled.

"Since when does our government issue a fatwa for jihad?" asked one elderly woman. "I think Bashar really is losing it. He has no connection to reality whatsoever."

The head of Dar al Ifta, Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun, is a staunch supporter of Assad and lost his son in a rebel ambush in October 2011. But many of Syria's majority Sunnis do not support Hassoun.

Syria is calling up former soldiers from the reserves to active army service to bolster its 300,000 strong army, as many conscripts are failing to report for duty.

"I think (Assad) must be going nuts," said a man in his forties who asked to remain anonymous. "He must really be feeling the heat to pull something like this. He must be feeling more and more isolated."

(Editing by Jon Hemming)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

KOREA FERRY TRAGEDY

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Author Marquez Dead

Author Marquez Dead

Nobel winner Garcia Marquez, master of magical realism, dies at 87.  Full Article 

Life Out There?

Life Out There?

Scientists find Earth-sized world in orbit friendly to life.  Full Article 

Nuclear Diplomacy

Nuclear Diplomacy

Iran cuts sensitive nuclear stockpile, key plant delayed - IAEA.  Full Article 

Ukraine Violence

Ukraine Violence

Four-way talks call for end to Ukraine violence.  Full Article 

Algeria Polls

Algeria Polls

Algeria's Bouteflika camp claims election win, rival alleges fraud.  Full Article 

Ebola Outbreak

Ebola Outbreak

Death toll from Guinea Ebola outbreak rises to 122.  Full Article 

Snowden & Putin

Snowden & Putin

Runaway spy Snowden is surprise guest on Putin phone-in.  Full Article 

Sectarian Violence

Sectarian Violence

U.S. envoy Power urges Myanmar action to stop Rakhine violence.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage