UPDATE 5/15/2013: I have fixed an error I made in the original translation where I missed a line. It is point #6 up to “our wounded people.”
I thought I would switch to Syria today since I saw that this interesting statement came out on Saturday. This is the translation of Ahrar al-Sham’s statement in which they criticize both Jabhat al-Nusra and al-Qaeda in Iraq for two statements: the first, AQI’s announcement of the merger of Jabhat al-Nusra and AQI into the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The second, Jabhat al-Nusra’s statement in which its leader, Abu Mohammad al-Jolani, pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri (in the same statement, however, he basically denied a full merger and asserted that JAN would retain its name and implicitly its autonomy).
Aron Lund has already put up a good post about this statement at Syria Comment, so I won’t add much. Two quick things jumped out at me though: First, the statement interestingly preempts criticism of Ahrar al-Sham when it argues that their criticism of JAN and AQI internationalizing the conflict is not based on a recognition of the legitimacy of “arbitrary” barriers between Muslims. Part of establishing bona fides as a Jihadi entails, of course, a complete and stated rejection of the Sykes-Picot lines, so it shows that Ahrar al-Sham is at least worried about losing some cred. The second interesting bit is where the statement indicates that Ahrar al-Sham will proceed based on what the state of the Islamic nation is, noting that Muslims in syria have “concealed” their religion for half a century. This indicates a growing ideological divide between Ahrar al-Sham, which forms the core of the Syrian Islamic Front, and Jabhat al-Nusra in which Ahrar al-Sham and the SIF are clearly staking out a gradualist position that seeks to Islamize Syrian society slowly instead of imposing strict Islamic law right away.
All mistakes are my own, and if you notice that I have made any errors, please point them out and they’ll get fixed.
The Syrian Islamic Front
The Islamic Ahrar al-Sham Movement
In the name of God, the most gracious, the most merciful.
Praise be to God and prayers and peace upon the messenger of God.
We were surprised, just as many were surprised, by what Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, released concerning the announcement the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. We were similarly surprised by Abu Mohammad al-Jolani’s response, the leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, in which he pledged allegiance (bay’ah) to Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda.
Given that we are watching with interest the implications of the event – and what it means in terms of its large impact on the internal and regional arenas – we wish to record some important points that make our position clear on what has come out. We take the approach of offering advice (al-nush) and admonition (al-tazkir):
1: We in the Islamic Ahrar al-Sham Movement are keen on concentrating efforts and unifying them in the battle to topple the aggressive Assad enemy, as nothing except for faith (iman) is more required and nothing comes before it.
2: God has set forth the legitimate norms (sunan) and universal laws to establish rightly guided states. Whoever breaches the laws is deprived of their consequences (note: this line was unclear to me). Religious leadership (al-imamah) over Muslims must have ability and authority to secure its interests. This does not exist among any of the factions and brigades on the ground.
3: The “emirate” is a method – enunciated in God’s law – to unify the message and the ranks, but it is not an end in itself. What al-Baghdadi announced did not unify the scattered groups and it did not reconcile conflicting factions, and this is what is called “corruption of the situation” among religious scholars. This is when what resulted from a ruling is the opposite of what is originally intended.
4: No one in this country – no religious scholars or sincere Islamists and FSA brigades working on the ground – was consulted in the announcement of the state. This opens up the field for anyone to announce initiatives on their own according to how they see fit
5: As such, the two announcements will drag parties into the conflict that do not serve – as we see it – the people’s revolution and Jihad. The principle is to not expand the scope of the conflict and to concentrate on fighting the Assad regime, undermining its pillars of support, and stopping its aggression.
6: We see in both of the announcements priority given to the interests of the group over the interests of the nation (ummah). This is what the regime was waiting for to justify its aggression and injustice (committed on) our wounded people. When we saw Jabhat al-Nusra’s dedication and valor in battle, their charity, and their good treatment of the people, it was thought that they would continue being altruistic and serving the interests of the nation.
Based on what has preceded, we ask both parties to get a sense of the magnitude of the event, the danger of regionalizing the conflict in this way, and bringing in other parties. This is not based on arbitrary distinctions between members of the Islamic nation, but an objective reading of the situation. It is a presentation of what we see as being in the best interests of Muslims and their Jihad against the tyrant of Syria.
Lastly, we in the Islamic Ahrar al-Sham Movement announce that the establishment of a rightly guided Islamic state that rules its subjects with justice is a goal that we strive to achieve through legitimate means. As such, we take care to heed the requirements of the situation and the state of the Islamic nation, which has concealed its religion for a half century. We ask God to guide us rightly in both thought and action and to grant our nation what is best. He is the protector and enabler, praise be to God, lord of the worlds.