British Muslims should oppose air strikes on Syria

Many British Muslims have made serious tactical mistakes since the onset of the Arab Spring and I really hope they won’t make another one by supporting Western air strikes on Syria, writes Roshan Muhammed Salih.

British, French and American politicians have been making hawkish noises about a “serious response” against the Syrian regime following an alleged chemical weapons attack in Damascus last week.

But any Western attack on Syria will be akin to letting a child molester into a school; it will fail to overthrow the regime; and it will intensify the conflict there.

Just as British Muslims didn’t like Saddam Hussein but opposed a Western-led war on Iraq, we must now oppose any Western campaign against Bashar – not out of love for him of course, but out of a sense of the greater good in Syria and the region.

Arab Spring mistakes

The first serious mistake some British Muslims made after the Arab Spring was the support they gave to the Nato campaign against Libya which ultimately led to the overthrow of Muammer Gadhafi.

The bombing mission resulted in thousands of deaths at least and yet again gave the rapacious West an excuse to intervene in the Arab world. It ultimately got rid of a brutal dictator who held a fractious country together with an iron fist, but led to chaotic milita rule and the disintegration of the state.

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The second serious mistake many British Muslims made was the wholehearted backing they gave to the military campaign to overthrow Bashar al Assad.

Again, we all know that Bashar is a ruthless and brutal dictator but he is one who rules with the consent of probably half the nation or more, and his eviction by force was never on the cards given the powerful military he possesses and foreign supporters he has.

So while the desire to replace Assad is of course understandable, the tactics which have been used to achieve that goal (militirisation of the opposition, flooding the country with fighters and weapons, alliances with the West and its regional proxies) have in fact only helped to increase the death toll and destroy the country and potentially the region.

Finally, the third serious mistake was how British Muslims indulged in the viscious sectarian rhetoric that is infecting the Muslim world like a malign virus. This sectarianism is untheological and is based on pure emotion, hatred, sloppy thinking and herd mentality. It is also bogging the Ummah down in a battle that will exhaust everyone and will only produce losers.


So why will supporting air strikes on Syria be mistake number 4?

Firstly, the casus belli for the air strikes (that Bashar gassed his own people) looks suspicious. We all know that Bashar is brutal and ruthless but he doesn’t seem crazy or irrational to me. And gassing your own people on the day UN inspectors arrive in the country and in an area where you are winning with conventional weapons seems irrational and crazy.

The more likely scenario is that whoever did the attack wanted to provoke a Western intervention as they knew that use of chemical weapons on a mass scale was a Western red line.

Secondly, even if it is proved that Assad carried out the attack Western air strikes will not result in a lessening of the killing. In fact, I think it would lead to an intensification as the regime reacts desperately and its foreign backers prop it up even more.

Thirdly, Muslims have to learn at some point to make Western military intervention in their countries a red line. The long history of these interventions – in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Lebanon etc – prove that they are done with ulterior motives, hidden agendas and only result in more killing, division and dependency.

Western intervention is a slippery slope and a dangerous drug. Muslims have to go cold turkey and kick it.

Political solution

The unpalatable truth is that the only solution for Syria is a political one. The military solution is simply impossible because both sides have powerful foreign backers who will not contemplate capitulation.

And of course a political solution will eventually happen in Syria, but only after all sides are exhausted by war and have come to the realisation that victory on the battlefied isn’t possible.

I say that political deal should be done now and painful compromises must be made for the greater good – that of preserving what is left in Syria and preventing a regional, even a global war. The alterative is the continuation of an unwinnable conflict that will destroy the country and throw it to the wolves.

This is a conflcit that only benefits those who want to see the Arab world weakened – ie the West and Israel. So British Muslims – instead of talking up an unwinnable war – should be concentrating their energies on preparing for peace.


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