After this summer’s niqab ban it universities, it seems a more widespread crackdown on religious radicals is under way.
When Syria was ostracised in 2005, following US accusations that it killed Rafiq Al-Hariri, the secular country relaxed its anti-Islamist rhetoric for the first time in two decades, even allowing exiled Muslim Brotherhood members to return.
Now, the tide has turned. This summer, teachers (and apparently students, too) were banned from wearing the full face vail, the niqab, in universities. Now, according to Kareem Fahim, writing in the New York Times, a number of other things have happened (interestingly, Fahim seems to be the NYT’s in-house terror expert).
Imams will have to provide recordings of their Friday sermons to government officials, and religious schools will be more closely monitored. Meanwhile, the Qubaisiaat (a liberal women’s religious group) has been told to pull back, and was apparently barred from preaching in mosques. Officials in the Muhafaza of Damascus have been fired for their politico-religious beliefs. And Fahim also points to the (very conservative) personal status law which was abandoned.
The International Crisis Group’s excellent analyst Peter Harling claims it all started with the 2008 car bomb in the south of Damascus which killed 17 people. That was blamed on Lebanese militants from Fateh Al-Islam (a group which shares Al-Qaeda ideologies and which fought a months-long war with the Lebanese army at the Nahr Al-Bared refugee camp in 2007).