Hamas (in Gaza), which early on supported the Libyan people's anti-Gaddafi uprising, yesterday stated that events in Syria are an "internal matter" (i.e. we support the government) and denied that the head of its politburo in Damascus Khaled Meshal had made a widely-quoted statement criticizing Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi.
The statement by Meshal was made out of "loving admonishment" and called on Qaradawi to refrain from playing the sectarian card in Syria affairs. Meshal painted a glowing picture of Syrian support for the Palestinians, something that will doubtless be hotly contested by many Palestinian factions and individuals with a long history of rivalry and confrontations with Damascus. For a detailed rundown see my War of Lebanon and PLO: History of a Revolution documentaries.
Syria has always viewed the cause of Palestine from the prism of its strategic interests which were rarely compatible with Yasser Arafat's vision of "independent national Palestinian decision making".
As former Syrian Foreign Minister (and later Vice President before defecting in 2005) Abdul Halim Khaddam once famously said, "Palestine is southern Syria" and "Syria is not a hotel" where Palestinian factions shack up for free.
Back to Qaradawi who in his Friday sermon on March 25 condemned the "atrocities" against protesters in Syria and said President Bashar al-Assad is treated by the Syrian people as a Sunni while he himself is captive to his own sect. A week later on April 1 he responded to calls for a lawsuit to be brought against him in Syria on charges of incitement of sectarianism. Qaradawi decried Syria's constitution that has "no place" for Islam in it and enshrines the Baath party's role at the vanguard of the state. He also denied that he is a proponent of sectarianism and retorted that a country shaken by his words is "not a country, it is weaker than a spider's web... This is the era of change. He who does not change gets trampled underfoot. These regimes have enslaved people..."
It will be interesting to see if Qaradawi tones down his speeches regarding Syria, especially following the visit to Damascus on Saturday of Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani bearing a verbal message from the Emir of Qatar to President Bashar. The Syrian News Agency said the message affirmed "Qatar's support for Syria in the face of efforts to undermine the country's security and stability." The Qatar News Agency described the message in general, non-specific terms.
Both Qaradawi and Hamas are disciples of the Muslim Brotherhood. To see the outburst from Meshal is unprecedented, especially as both Hamas and Qaradawi have close links to Qatar which has had very warm relations with Bashar al-Assad.
A man on a long journey through a perpetual desert.
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