Rashad Ali is a British Sunni Muslim who devotes most of his life to combating extremism and urging young co-religionists to reject the siren voices of jihadism. At the risk of making himself unpopular with some members of his community, he actively assists the government’s efforts to counter hard-line Islamism. He works mostly in his own country but also follows the Muslim scene in many other places.
Like many others working in his field, he is convinced that recent events in Syria have made his life much, much harder. Whether in Britain or in Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia or Morocco (all countries he has visited recently), he finds that ordinary Sunnis are appalled and angry over the suffering of civilians in east Aleppo before and during the collapse of the rebel stronghold.
The news has made them furious with Russia, which claims inter alia to be deploying its fighter-bombers in support of local Christians; angry with Iran and the Shia Muslim militias that it sponsors in Syria; and disappointed with Western countries for doing nothing to restrain the Russo-Iranian coalition. A common grievance, says Mr Ali, a fellow of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, is that Western consciences are moved by the plight of ethnic and religious minorities, such as the Kurds or Yazidis or small Christian sects, but indifferent to ordinary Sunni Arabs.