There are good reasons to oppose a war on Syria, and there are dreadful ones. And one of the worst is to avoid being on the same side as Islamists.
The Independent ran an article by Robert Fisk last week asking, “Does Obama know he’s fighting on Al Qaida’s side?” It was depressing to see a journalist of his stature tapping into Islamophobic paranoia.
Islamists groups are a minority in the forces fighting the Syrian regime.
The revolution has involved people from across all of Syria’s different religious and ethnic groups fighting for freedom.
But we shouldn’t be surprised that many people in the Middle East look to political Islam.
People across the region have been oppressed by the West for generations—from British and French colonialism in the 19th century to the war that killed 1 million Iraqis at the beginning of the 21st.
They have always resisted. In the period after the Second World War Communist Parties, who looked to the Soviet Union, and secular Arab nationalists were at the heart of the revolts.
But they made their peace with the system—and paved the way for the dictatorships in Egypt and Syria today.
Islamists still seemed prepared to challenge imperialism, and that’s why millions of people began to look to them.
The Islamic movement Hamas grew in popularity in Palestine by playing a central role in the 1989 Intifada.
Meanwhile the established Palestine Liberation Organisation collaborated with Israel in vain hopes of getting a state.
The Muslim Brotherhood ended up as the only large opposition organisation in Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt, as the old left failed to challenge the state.
The Brotherhood sunk roots by providing welfare.But once in government it proved to be anything but radical.
Various Islamist groups and trends are as different from each other. Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad used the Hizbollah militia from Lebanon to put down the revolution.
Meanwhile the Gulf monarchies are backing the Islamist Jabhat al-Nusra brigades to try and hijack it.
We oppose these groups because they are acting against the revolution, not because they are Islamists.
And we defend the right of oppressed people to fight their oppressors—regardless of whether their organisations are socialist, nationalist or Islamist.