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How foreign imams radicalized Syria's war

When eastern Aleppo fell to rebel factions, radical preachers from abroad quickly moved in and began proselytizing extremist views to the local population, raising fears that such effects may linger for years to come.
Free Syrian Army members take Islam lessons in Aleppo's Saif al-Dawla district, September 18, 2013. REUTERS/Loubna Mrie (SYRIA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST CONFLICT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY RELIGION) - RTX13QCR

The war barged into Aleppo city rudely and was an uninvited guest, bringing with it not only death and suffering, but also the dangerous specter of extremist radicalization at the hands of the seasoned fanatics that started pouring into the city almost as soon as its eastern part fell to the rebellion. "There are no atheists in foxholes" and there are certainly none in cities brutally devastated by death and war, the perfect fertile ground for the unscrupulous to poison unsuspecting and helpless populations.

Before the battle of Aleppo in July 2012, I worked with a number of local aid groups that had been providing food and basics to the many displaced who had arrived in Aleppo from other war-ravaged areas in the country. This is when I first met Mahmoud, a gentle and soft-spoken opposition activist in his late 20s. He struck me as being knowledgeable about Islam as well as being moderate and accepting of other faiths.

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