Sunday, May 6, 2012
"(Reuters) - At a meeting of Syria's opposition, Muslim Brotherhood officials gather round Marxists colleagues, nudging them to produce policy statements for the Syrian National Council, the main political group challenging President Bashar al-Assad.
With many living in the West, and some ditching their trademark beards, it is hard to differentiate Brotherhood from leftists. But there is little dispute about who calls the shots.
From annihilation at home 30 years ago when they challenged the iron-fisted rule of Hafez al-Assad, the Brotherhood has recovered to become the dominant force of the exile opposition in the 14-month-old revolt against his son Bashar.
Careful not to undermine the council's disparate supporters, the Brotherhood has played down its growing influence within the Syrian National Council (SNC), whose public face is the secular Paris-based professor Bourhan Ghalioun.
"We chose this face, accepted by the West and by the inside. We don't want the regime to take advantage if an Islamist becomes the Syrian National Council's head," former Brotherhood leader Ali Sadreddine al-Bayanouni told supporters in a video.
The footage is now being circulated by Brotherhood opponents, seeking to highlight its undeclared power.
"We nominated Ghalioun as a front for national action. We are not moving now as Muslim Brotherhood but as part of a front that includes all currents," said Bayanouni.
The Syrian Brotherhood is a branch of the Sunni Muslim movement founded in Egypt in the 1920s. It was a minor political player before a 1963 Baath Party coup but its support grew under the authoritarian 30-year rule of Hafez al-Assad, as his minority Alawite community dominated the majority Sunni country.....
Colonel Asaad now sports a Brotherhood-style beard. Street activists who have had little to do with the Brotherhood are also being lured by promises of instant support for the revolt.
"I approached them and they instantly gave me 2,000 euros when I asked for help...and I am not even Ikhwan (Brotherhood)," said veteran activist Othman al-Bidewi, who regularly travels between Syria and the border region in Turkey to drum up support for street demonstrations against Assad in Idlib province.
"The Brotherhood wants to restore its political base. It is their right," he added."