What Will Ramadan do to the Opposition

The Ummayyad Mosque in Damascus

Kal, over at the Moor Next Door, published some thoughts on how Ramadan, the Muslim holiday that will start on August 1st and run until August 29th, will change the nature of the Arab uprisings across the region. Kal focuses on the potential rise of Islamists in what has generally been a secular uprising, the probability of intensification of the protests, and the ability of regimes to crackdown harder during the month. Read the whole piece, but here is a snippet:

The Islamic holiday’s overlap with several ongoing and developing uprisings in the Arab countries is highly likely to increase openings for popular activism, especially by sectarian and Islamist factions. Additionally, Ramadan will provide opposition elements with greater opportunities for organizing and protest as large numbers of people gather at mosques and communal festivities in the open air in major cities. In counties with ongoing uprisings, such as Yemen and Syria, there is a high probability that Islamist groupings will become bolder and more confident during Ramadan, taking advantage of opportunities to use religious festivals and sermons to rally their followers against their regime and factional enemies. At the least, Ramadan could intensify already common post-Friday afternoon prayers demonstrations and nighttime protests that have become more and more common in several Arab countries.

Personally, I find the potential consequences of Ramadan in Syria to be the most interesting. The Syrian opposition is already quite fragmented and could break apart further if the Muslim Brotherhood attempts to, as Kal says, exploit the holiday. The ruling Ba’athist regime is both secular and Alawite (a small offshoot of Shi’ism), meaning that intensified governmental violence could be seen as a crackdown on religious and sectarian lines, which would simply further augment support for the protests, which should grow during the holiday due to increased mosque attendance. Yet, the Syrian opposition is severely divided and sectarian violence has already broken out across the country. Should the Islamists in Syria push for an increased role of Islam in the protests, it could have a divisive effect on the opposition. On the other hand, the government repression can more easily be seen through a sectarian and religious lens, which could either unite or further divide the opposition.

Photo from Ramadan.co

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