The sad events in Syria appear to have no end, disaster follows disaster with no let up for the innocent civilians caught between the government and the Western backed rebels. One aspect of this conflict is the large number of Muslims who have traveled to join the fighting against the Syrian government, why is this cause so popular?
There are many conflicts raging across the planet, plus countless situations of poverty and sickness, yet the civil war in Syria attracts the most attention from a section of the Muslim community. Indeed, its not just individuals who have chosen Syria as a their case, many Arab states including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, also Western countries such as America, France and the UK. The conflict in Syria started in 2011, yet there has been many conflicts and causes in the area prior to that which received no attention at all, for example Qatar has given the Syrian rebels over $3 Billion (Roula Khalaf and Abigail Fielding Smith (16 May 2013). “Qatar bankrolls Syrian revolt with cash and arms”. Financial Times. Retrieved 3 June 2013.) , yet it has not supplied one bullet to the Palestinians, nor to the Lebanese in the face of Israeli aggression. There are also areas of the middle east that appeared to have far more repressive regimes, such as Saudi Arabia, instead of being isolated have actually been supported by the West, the Islamic Human Rights Commission reported that there were over 30,000 political prisoners in the Saudi regimes detention centers. This is in stark contrast to Syria, were in 2011 President Bashar Al Assad granted amnesty to all political prisoners. There are no campaigns to help the revolutions in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia or Jordan, all of whom have western backing despite massive human rights abuse, also the Muslim world seems ignorant to the suffering, certainly the media campaigns have focused on Syria.
The US and the west also have a very patchy record when it comes to conflicts, it would be very hard to argue that there was any moral underpinnings to their plans when they find billions to fight in some wars yet shrug helplessly at others, so what is going on then? The reality of the matter is that this is simply politics. Those governments who support the rebellion are not doing so from a moral perspective, just like they do not fund Israel because of any moral duty, its simply part of their political plan. The next question then is what about those individuals on the ground who have traveled to Syria, why have they chosen that as their cause?
The situation is complex, yet there are some common elements to those individuals who make the decision to join the rebels, they are predominately Salafi branch of the Sunni sect and disillusioned with their current lifestyle. Just as in the case of the Countries mentioned above, its hard to understand any moral argument for the support of the rebellion when there are countless other scenes of despair throughout the world, for example the Palestinian crisis. So far we have not seen any campaign in support of the Palestinians with either weaponry or individuals to any significant extent, certainly nothing like that of Syria, which does make one doubt the real intentions of those who are joining the Syrian rebels. One reason for this is that the Salafis are highly motivated when it comes to denouncing other ideologies within Islam, no matter how small the difference, they feel that those who have a different opinion to themselves are their worst enemy.
So to conclude, the crisis in Syria is a humanitarian disaster, but it is not being helped by Western backed rebels nor Saudi backed Salafis on the ground. The reality is there are states that want to destroy the Syrian government and Syria itself and one tool to do this is the easily motivated Salafis who are eager to fight those whom they consider infidels and oppressors. No doubt Bashar Al Assad is no saint, he is a dictator, however he is surrounded by similar regimes that escape the attention of the West, one crucial difference however is that Syria is technically and often literally still at war with Israel, something that makes it very much in the West’s sights. Its hard to say that the Western and Muslim world want to help in Syria when they are so selective about their involvement, it removes the moral aspect of the argument completely, leaving just the political.