Is Saudi-style jihadism resonating with local Greeks?

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ATHENS, Greece – Despite the multitude of private messages I receive on my Twitter everyday, I decide to keep it open as I like to communicate with my followers or those who want a clearer understanding on international issues, especially Syria.

Many of them are just people trolling, who are I usually block immediately, and many of those are people with differing opinions but we can engage in a respectful and engaging discussion.

Yesterday however was a new phenomena I had not experienced before. A user messaged me asking about Syria. Nothing out of the ordinary, and revealed to me he was an ethnic Greek living in Athens. He then revealed he is neither pro-Russia or pro-US, and began to show sympathies for Saudi Arabia, the country that executes homosexuals and do not allow women to drive.

He attempted, very politely, to tell me that they are not a radical country, before revealing that there is nothing wrong with their puritanical interpretation of Islam. He then attempted to tell me that there is no evidence Saudi Arabia has ever supported ISIS, and all evidence I showed him, including leaked emails, between Hillary Clinton and the US State Department. This was all dismissed as false reports and propaganda.

Then came the narrative that the Shi’ites are engaged in a conspiracy against Sunnis, and that the Axis of Resistance is actually a Shi’ite resistance because Assad is Alawite. So of course I had to highlight that all states against Israel and American hegemony in the Middle East are welcomed to join the Axis, including Salafi scum like Hamas. I also had to highlight that Syria is a secular Arab nationalist republic while Iran is an Islamic republic. Normally these two types of government would be at odds with each other.

Of course this was immediately dismissed, and he tried to use the rhetoric that Assad slaughters the majority Sunnis of Syria and that the majority are against him. So I proceeded to show an extract of an academic conference presentation I will be giving in Pakistan in the coming months.

The extract is as follows:

“A YouGov Siraj poll on Syria commissioned by The Doha Debates and funded by the Qatar Foundation in January 2012, found that at least 55% of Syrians supported Assad. It must be noted that this poll was funded and commissioned by Qatar who has been one of the key anti-Assad players, and even their poll, which could be susceptible to bias, found that the majority of Syrians supported Assad. It must also be highlighted that the poll has since been deleted from the The Doha Debates but the results of the poll are still cited by The Guardian in an opinion piece by Guardian columnist and author Jonathan Steele (2012).

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However, if we look towards the Syrian Presidential election in 2014, Assad won 88.7% of the votes with a turnout of 73.42%. This is a significant amount of voter turnout considering the last time the US had a higher percentage per capita was in 1896 (The American Presidency Project, 2018). This would suggest that as the war has progressed and the jihadist element became more evident, the people recognized Assad as a source of stability and peace despite mainstream media efforts to demonize him. Questions arise about electoral fraud, but this overlooks that the elections were overseen by observers from over 30 countries including from post-colonial states like Brazil, Venezuela and Uganda. The observers said in a joint statement that “the Syrian people participated in the elections in total freedom, contrary to Western and regional propaganda that tried to fabricate a false narrative”.

Therefore, with it established that the majority of Syrians were never against Assad, it dismisses the notion that this was a struggle by the majority Sunni of Syria against the so-called minority Alawite dictatorship. It also demonstrates that the so-called Ummah were not needing intervention from international jihadists in Syria as terrorist organisations claim. However, with the mainstream media pushing the narrative of a sectarian struggle occurring in Syria, it resulted in tens of thousands of jihadists from over 100 countries fighting in the country.”

The next part is then I demonstrated to him that the war against Syria is another case of US imperialism. I proceeded to link him to a conference paper that was presented by myself and Dr Drew Cottle at a Syria related conference in Sydney that presents the case of US imperialism against the country. This paper can be read here.

These simple facts were of course dismissed as propaganda and false. It was then of course obvious that he was a Salafist. So when pushing the question, he claimed he was “thinking about becoming Muslim.” There is absolutely no problem in anyone wanting to convert to whatever religion they want, but there is a problem when you’re converting to a puritanical sect that thinks it is perfectly okay to not give women emancipation or to execute homosexuals, and also think that “before Jerusalem can be liberated, the Shi’ites must be defeated.”

Although this is an isolated case, and he claims to be an ethnic Greek, this would be a rare case of a Greek converting to Wahhabism. With the country officially being at least 90% Christian Orthodox, conversion to Islam is extremely rare. I personally know many Greeks who have converted to Shi’ism or moderate schools of Sunni Islam, but this hopefully isolated case of conversion to Wahhabism demonstrates the potential of homegrown jihadists in Greece itself. Greek authorities must pay close attention to this and not let this situation come out of control like it has in the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Sweden and Germany.

With Greece having a Muslim minority, these communities, mostly Albanians, Turks and Pomaks have not shown a tendency to radicalism, and rather any instances of this in Greece come from Greek converts and recent migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria.

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