Recent statements from various leaders within the Syrian rebel movement show that the rift between secularists and Islamists remains a key issue.
A video released by a leading Islamist faction shows Islamist military leader Abu Bilal al-Homsi exhorting his followers to reject the largely secular Free Syrian Army, led by Salim Idris.
According to Al-Homsi, Idris has said that the Free Syrian Army under his command is fighting for "democracy, secularism, communism, and the rights of minority groups", including Syrian Druze.
Rebels must fight not for democracy or rights, but for Islam, Al-Homsi declared. From the beginning, the purpose of the rebellion was to institute Islamic law, he argued.
“The Koran is our law,” he emphasized.
He argued that Idris’ alleged statements constitute a betrayal of thousands of rebel fighters who died for Islam, and prove that the Free Syrian Army is taking orders from foreign powers.
Islamist groups fighting in Syria have created an “Islamic Front” including over 50 militias. The group does not include Al Qaeda-linked factions.
Western states held their first meeting with the Islamic Front last week. Their goal was reportedly to encourage Islamists to re-establish their ties with the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) and to support the upcoming “Geneva 2” peace conference.