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August 31, 2012 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 878

Contradicting Statements On The Mission Of Slain Prominent Australian Sheikh Mustapha Al-Majzoub In Syria

August 31, 2012 | By Mansour Al-Hadj
Syria | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 878

Introduction

As the death of prominent Saudi-born Australian Sheikh Mustapha Al-Majzoub is being confirmed by his family, there have been conflicting statements about the nature of his mission in Syria. While his family and friends insist, at least to the media, that he was killed while carrying out humanitarian and charity work, statements made by him and his father, and reports from media outlets affiliated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), tell a completely different story about his mission in Syria.

In a statement posted on muslimvillage.com, Al-Majzoub's family wrote: "Sheikh Mustapha was killed by a rocket attack on Sunday August 20, while carrying out humanitarian and charity work to help the people of Syria."[1] On August 22, 2012, Al-Majzoub's father told Australian news channel ABC that his son "was doing his duty when he died."[2] In the report, the father said through a translator that his son was killed while trying to help injured people when the location was hit by a series of bombs. He added, "I am proud of what my son did and I am proud of all the Syrian people who are against the regime and asking for their freedom. This is a duty, not a volunteer work."

The father provided more details about his son's death in another program aired on ABC. According to the report, Keysar Trad of the Islamic Friendship Association, who spoke to Sheikh Mustapha's family, said that Sheikh Mustapha's father told him that his son died after a rocket, fired from a jet, hit him while he was in a small town on the outskirts of Latakia. Mr. Trad rejected the possibility that Sheikh Mustapha might have been taking part in the fight, telling ABC that "no, he is not a military person. We're not aware of any military training or role that he could or may have. All we know of him is he was a man of God."[3]

Indications That Sheikh Mustapha Was Killed While Fighting The Syrian Regime

However, reports from sources close to the FSA, as well as a speech delivered in Arabic by Al-Majzoub's father from Lakemba Mosque in Sydney, and statements made by Sheikh Mustapha himself, leave no doubt that he had been involved in a military operation linked with the armed opposition. On August 20, 2012, a Facebook account, reporting news relating to the FSA, announced the death of battalion commander Sheikh Mustapha in intense fight near Latakia.[4] Another Facebook account, Aljazeera.Aleppo, also reported that Sheikh Mustapha, the head of a legion located near Aleppo, died as a result of a missile attack.[5] Moreover, Sheikh Mustapha's father delivered a speech in a service held in honor of his son in which he said that his son's love of jihad was due to the time they spent together in Pakistan and Afghanistan. [6]


Sheikh Mustapha Al-Majzoub

A statement made by Sheikh Mustapha himself also gives clues that his mission was not only humanitarian, as claimed by his family. According to Muslimvillage.com, Sheikh Mustapha's last post on his Facebook page was the following: "One important lesson I learnt where I am is: never judge a person by the greatness of his biceps or the width of his shoulders or the loudness of his voice or his aggressiveness in front of other Muslims or by the hype talk he repeats; rather, judge him by his steadfastness at calamities and on the battlefields. Subhanallah I met brothers here who from the first instance you might think they are too merciful or weak (due to the way they treat other Muslims), however on the battlefields they are lions that roar. They are stern and firm, they scare their enemies more than 100 men with big muscles. Like the way the companions were described in the Quran. (They are merciful towards one another and stern against their enemies)."[7]

A description of a YouTube video of a service held to mourn the death of Sheikh Mustapha, posted on August 20, 2012, reads: "Sheikh Mustafa Al-Majzoub is one of Australia's most popular sheikhs, especially with the youth. He went to Syria, his homeland, to take part in the jihad there during the blessed uprising of 2011/12. He was martyred while fighting."[8]

Sheikh Mustapha did indeed perform some humanitarian work while he was in Turkey. He attempted to raise funds to support displaced and injured Syrians who sought refuge in their northern neighbor. While in Turkey, he called on Muslims who live in Sydney to donate for the Syrians, and even provided a phone number of someone named Ibrahim who would come to donors to receive their donations. He promised to "direct every dollar you send to the ones who need it most inside Syria or in Turkey."[9]

While it is still unclear why his family insists, especially to the media, that Sheikh Mustapha was pursuing a humanitarian mission in Syria, one could infer that it is due to how he was perceived by Australian authorities. According to The Australian, Sheikh Mustapha was known to authorities because of his "extremist" views and his "links to other persons of interest."[10] The family might be trying to counter news reports referring to the existence of radical groups in Syria; however, regardless of motives, this incident is a clear example of miscommunication and lack of trust between Muslim communities living in the West and the local authorities.

* Mansour Al-Hadj is director of Reform in the Arab and Muslim World Project at MEMRI.

Endnotes:

[1] Muslimvillage.com August 20, 2012

[2] abc.net.au, August 22, 2012

[3] abc.net.au, August 22, 2012

[7] Muslimvillage.com August 20, 2012

[9] Muslimvillage.com August 20, 2012

[10] Theaustralian.com.au, August 22, 2012

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