Syria Witnesses Islamist Revival

(BBC News) Kim Ghattas - Religion is making a comeback in Syria, where people feel the state's socialist and pan-Arab ideologies have failed for the last four decades. "We have a phenomenon of radicalization taking place in schools and university," said Salam Kawakibi, a political analyst in Aleppo. "The danger is the influence of Salafism and Wahhabism from Saudi Arabia, because all the Syrians who work there, come back with new practices which they impose on their families," he said. "After the clashes of 1980, the state tried to create an official Islam. They encouraged the building of mosques and the creation of religious schools. They think it is a way to control society." Syria's staunchly secular Baath party encouraged people to go to the mosque in order to keep them away from politics. "Initially they thought they were getting rid of the extremist elements in Syrian society by sending them to die in Iraq," said Marwan Qabalan, a Syrian political analyst. "It was a clever strategy - you want to undertake jihad, go do it somewhere else." "These people, who have been trained in Iraq, are now coming back to Syria and could use their tactics against a new enemy - possibly the state," he said. While the Syrian government thinks it can maintain control over the increasing religious trend, many analysts now believe the Islamists could outsmart the state.

2006-02-24 00:00:00

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