Once considered rising political players in Lebanese politics, the Salafists who were active in aiding the Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime are now in retreat.
After three years of monitoring their activities, a recent visit to their mosques and homes showed clearly that the weight and power of Hezbollah and its cooperation with the Lebanese intelligence and Armed Forces, and the changing dynamics in the Syrian war that have kept Assad in power, have all led to the Salafists’ decline.
In 2012 and 2013, the Salafists in Lebanon, like many across the region, took unprecedented steps and entered the public debate to condemn Assad and Hezbollah’s atrocities in the war, which have left hundreds of thousands dead. In many countries in the region – with Egypt and Kuwait as the exceptions – Salafists were fiercely opposed to becoming involved in politics and believed it was against the practices of their faith. They focused primarily on dawa, encouraging other Muslims to follow their Islamic school of thought, which centers around promoting Islam as it was practiced during the first three generations of Muslims after the Prophet Mohammad’s death.
In Lebanon, some reluctantly became politically active because they believed aiding their Sunni Syrian brethren was an urgent cause. The days a few years ago when they preached impassioned sermons in their mosques against the Shiite, who they consider their enemy – so much so that two of their mosques were bombed during Friday prayers –- have ended. They have abandoned their short-lived desire to form a political party; they have ceased their activities that encouraged cross-border fighting with the Sunni rebels in Syria, and they realized that their diverse beliefs with Salafists in neighboring countries did not offer a coherent political agenda. Click here to read more.
Photo Credit: Patrick Donovan via flickr