BEIRUT: The Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, categorically rejected Monday a “code of honor” announced recently by a group of Islamist militias, accusing its comrades of embracing nonreligious values and political objectives.
The code of honor was unveiled by four large Islamist militias and the Islamic Front, itself an alliance of seven large fighting groups, Saturday.
The groups highlighted their commitment to toppling the regime of President Bashar Assad and said they wanted to establish a state based on “freedom, justice and security,” one in which all components of Syrian society could play a role.
Observers said that the code of honor’s emphasis on Syrian national interests and the rejection of religious extremism appeared to be an attempt to distance the conservative Islamist militias from the Nusra Front.
Many Islamist militias active in Syria are conservative and Salafist and regularly engage in joint military operations with the Nusra Front, but do not share its Al-Qaeda ideology, based on jihad and takfir, or the belief that other Muslims should be fought if they are insufficiently religious.
Since the beginning of the year, Nusra and the signatories, along with other Islamist and even non-Islamist militias, have been waging a fierce campaign against ISIS, the Al-Qaeda splinter group that has been denounced by the movement’s central leadership.
In its nine-point response to the code of honor, Nusra said a number of points in the document lacked any religious foundation.
It said it rejected any attempt to “swallow up or hide” the role of non-Syrians who have flocked to Syria to take part in military operations with a number of jihadist groups, among them the Nusra Front.
The document’s concept of “jihad,” it said, was limited to toppling the regime militarily, while the vow to conduct a “fair trial” for leading figures in Assad’s regime was a betrayal of Islamic doctrine with regard to vengeance.
“This is contrary to what Shariah has decided; in Islam, apostates deserve only the sword,” Nusra said. “The failure to seek vengeance for the people of [Syria] is nothing other than a disappointment.”
Nusra complained that concepts of national affiliation were clearly more important than religious concepts in the code of honor.
“Points three, five, six and eight [in the code of honor] all spread the spirit of civic-mindedness and belonging to land and the nation,” it said.
“Everyone should be aware that the Islamic state we desire is one based on religion, belief and Shariah before anything else. ... For us, Muslims cannot be equal to infidels,” it added.
Nusra said the code of honor’s stated goal of countering the influence of foreign countries on the armed uprising was a deceptive ploy.
“The code says that the Syrian people aim to establish a state of justice, law and freedom, isolated from pressures and diktats, but we believe these pressures and diktats are very obvious in the drafting of this point,” Nusra said.
“We would have very much liked to see our brethren, who signed the document, consult with us,” the group said.
“Everyone is aware that one of the biggest problems in arenas of jihad, about which religious scholars have warned, is the absence of consultation, and the taking of decisions unilaterally.”