Abu Karam, the leader of the opposition’s Abu Bakar al Sadeq battalion, says that a number of well-funded, hard-line groups are using their resources to enlarge their base of support. “People are desperate and they will take assistance from whoever is giving it,” he says.
Many Syrians are worried about what Rahman and other moderates describe as an increasingly polarized political landscape among the Syrian opposition. Hard-line groups exist among both the Islamists and secularists, but many Syrians say that conservative Islamist groups are gaining the most ground inside Syria right now. Throughout Aleppo, a number of civilians are also calling for a post-Assad government to be based on sharia, or Islamic law.
Despite moderates' fears, many Syrians, regardless of their affiliations and beliefs, say the trend toward conservative Islam is largely a response to decades of secular rule under the Assad regime and does not necessarily indicate the desire for an ultra-conservative regime in Syria.
“Wherever the extremists go, they try to impose themselves on the population. This is a civilian revolution, and it contains all the elements of our society,” says Abu Karam, the battalion leader.
Among the groups that have caused the greatest concern is Jabhat al-Nusra, a conservative Islamist group now fighting among the Syrian opposition. Last week, the US State Department classified the group as a terrorist organization, saying it had ties to Al Qaeda in Iraq, which was a major force within the anti-US Sunni insurgency.