This month will mark the twentieth anniversary since the death of Syria's previous president Hafez al-Assad (often dubbed by his supporters as the 'Eternal Leader'). Out of historical interest, I sometimes listen to Hafez al-Assad's speeches, and recently came across an interesting excerpt from a speech that was delivered following the suppression of the Islamist insurgency in Hama in early 1982. Although those events are commonly associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, it is worth reading this article that partly explores the question of the extent of the Brotherhood's involvement in a more nuanced way.
I find the description of the Islamist insurgents/Muslim Brotherhood as 'apostates' (i.e. a pronouncement of takfir) particularly interesting. Likewise note the non-sectarian image projected in the speech, as Hafez speaks of the authentic Islam of Omar and Ali.
Below is the excerpt translated.
What is it that these criminals have not done? Everything, everything they have done. They have killed, assassinated, betrayed, stolen, plundered, committed treason. The Almighty has said: 'Whoso kills a life when it is not in retribution for the murder of a life or for corruption in the land, it is as though he has killed all mankind, and whoso saves it, it is as though he has saved all mankind.'
Oh citizen brothers, oh brothers and sons, if the one who kills a life is as though he has killed all mankind, so just imagine then the one who has killed hundreds of lives and just imagine then the one who has tried to kill an entire neighbourhood, an entire town and an entire homeland! Indeed they are apostates from the religion, apostates from Islam, apostates from the homeland. And we: all of us will defend the religion, defend Islam, defend the homeland.
Oh sons, oh citizen brothers, in every town and village of this region [i], we- we these masses-we are the ones who will defend Islam as it has come, we are the ones who will defend the Islam of Muhammad (God's blessings and peace be upon him). Oh sons, we are the ones who will defend Islam. We will defend it as it has come: the Islam of the Companions, the Islam of Omar and Ali, the Islam of justice, the Islam of equality, the Islam of affection, the Islam of patriotism, the Islam of progress, the Islam of revolution, the Islam of the struggle against backwardness and against feudalism. Oh sons: we will not permit them at all to distort our Islam. We will not permit them at all to distort our values, we will not permit them ever to distort our values, we will not permit them ever to distort our heritage. Islam is the Islam of the stubborn struggle against all forms of imperialism. Islam is a struggle that does not know hesitation against backwardness, against colonialism. It is a steadfast and firm stance and an untiring and stubborn struggle alongside all the oppressed, and all those who toil in our Ummah and in every place on the face of this earth.
Oh sons, this is our Islam, and this is the Islam of Muhammad (God's blessings and peace be upon him), and we are the ones who will raise the banner of Islam, and we are the ones who will protect the banner of Islam. And we will not allow these hireling agents to dishonour this banner.
[i]- The Arabic word here is القطر, in keeping with the Ba'athist conception of one Arab nation with 'regions'.