Nusra’s moderate face

Here’s a strange story. Just a couple of weeks ago, Jabhat al-Nusra’s leader, Abu Muhammad al-Julani, told Al Jazeera and anybody listening that he and his men were not looking to cause trouble with religious minorities like the Alawites, as long as those minorities weren’t looking to cause trouble with Nusra. Sure, Nusra has massacred Alawite communities before, and in his interview Julani kind of ominously added that those Alawites need to get right with Islam, but overall the message was one of tolerance. Just look at how well we’re getting along with the Druze in Idlib, he said! The same Druze who have been, ah, “voluntarily” converting to Salafi Islam ever since you started taking control of their territory, you might ask? Yes, those Druze, he would probably reply, we’re real tight now. Nusra is totes moderate, you know; just ask Al Jazeera’s Islamabad bureau chief, because he sure was convinced!

So seeing as how is so cool and Nusra isn’t out to harm religious minorities and it gets along so well with the Druze and all, I’m afraid I can’t make sense of this story:

At least 20 Druze villagers have been shot dead by the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front in north-western Syria, activist and opposition groups say.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said elderly people and a child were among those killed in Qalb Lawzah in Idlib province on Wednesday afternoon.

Huh, that’s peculiar. Well, maybe the Druze attacked Nusra first or something. Those elderly Druze can be a real handful. Maybe there’s no religious angle here at all.

The Syrian Observatory, a UK-based monitoring group, reported that Wednesday’s shooting occurred after a Tunisian al-Nusra commander tried to confiscate a house belonging to a Druze man who he claimed was loyal to the Syrian government.

Relatives of the house’s owner protested and tried to stop the commander.

The dispute soon turned violent and a villager was shot dead before another seized the rifle of an al-Nusra fighter and opened fire, killing one of the jihadists, the Syrian Observatory said. Reinforcements were called in by the commander and at least 20 villagers were shot, it added.

Sources told the BBC that the al-Nusra commander accused the Druze of being “kuffar” (infidels) before ordering the mass shooting, and that rebel groups allied to al-Nusra, including Ahrar al-Sham, eventually intervened to stop the bloodshed.

Yeah, see, that was it! Assuming you agree that confiscating a house and then shooting somebody who tried to stop you from confiscating it does not in itself constitute “violence,” then clearly the Druze who grabbed the rifle and opened fire was the one who started the whole thing. Also, assuming you attach no religious significance to slandering the Druze as infidels just before massacring them, then there’s really nothing to see here at all. None of this makes any logical sense, but let’s go with it.

Seriously, though, Nusra is awful and anybody participating in the charade of their supposed “moderation” is also awful.

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