The first edition of a new Syrian jihadi magazine, entitled Majallat Minbar Surya al-Islami (The Magazine of the Islamic Pulpit of Syria) made its appearance on July 14, produced by the online publishers Minbar Suriya al-Islami, and distributed on their website [www.nnuu.org].
The 22-page text contains a range of materials, an editorial on the imminent collapse of the Ba’athist Alawi regime, followed by news updates on the internal situation in Syria, and the ongoing crisis for the Alawi government. Of these news postings, prominent among them are reports detailing the relationship between Damascus and Washington, how U.S. policies are focusing on change rather than replacement, how the Syrian government is continuing in its attempts to improve relations with Washington, and how the Ba’ath party is lending its support to the promotion of U.S.-Syria discussions. The focus is also on a growing crisis, with a report on Ba’athists aiming to maintain the state of emergency on “matters that affect national security”, and the rumors of high ranking officers sending their womenfolk to give birth in Canada, in order to gain Canadian nationality as a precautionary measure pending the fall of the Alawi regime.
Attention is also turned to the regime’s security measures, the alterations being made in the security services with military intelligence consecrating its control. The magazine also reports on mass arrests of students in the city of Homs and of citizens from villages where individuals have been identified as having departed for Iraq. It gives the figure of up to 1,300 militants of various Arab nationalities arrested by the authorities in Syria, including 150 Algerians from the Groupe Salafiste pour la Prèdication et le Combat (GSPC). The news reports also detail the continuing victims of Law 49 (a 25-year-old decree stipulates the death penalty for membership in the Muslim Brotherhood), disappearances attributed to kidnappings by the regime and a government plan to replaced Islamic lessons in schools with ‘Ethics’ studies.
Finally the magazine includes a lengthy essay entitled ‘On Obedience,’ penned by Abu Baseer al-Tartusi, a religious homily on the illegitimacy of obedience to secular powers. Abu Baseer is a respected Islamist ideologue resident in London, who has come into prominence for his often bold criticisms of Islamist groups. In particular, Abu Baseer posted a stringent criticism of the London bombings on July 9, followed two days later by a detailed legal justification of his condemnation. Another essay on the Nusayri sect gives a detailed description of the Alawite religion, in terms of its heresy within Islam.
The magazine comes from the same stable as the Risalat al-Mujahideen publication that began publication in December 2004. The first three monthly issues of that publication occupied itself with awakening jihadi consciousness among the country’s youth through an effective call to arms, and the establishment of overt hostility to the regime, both politically and doctrinally [see Terrorism Focus, Volume 2, Issue 7]. Beyond that, the content of the new magazine seems to follow a similar format. Since a fourth edition of Risalat al-Mujahideen has yet to appear, it may be that the new magazine is intended to replace it.