Moaz al-Khatib (Sheikh Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib al-Hasani) is a prominent figure of the Syrian opposition to President Bashar al-Assad’s rule. He was elected in November 2013 to serve as president of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces but resigned six months later, citing frustration with the coalition’s limited progress toward ending the suffering of the Syrian people and the undue involvement of regional countries in opposition politics.
Al-Khatib was a preacher at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus and chairman of the Islamic Civilization Society until 1995, when he was banned from preaching after openly criticizing the Baathist regime. Known for his moderation, he has consistently called for social justice and political pluralism in Syria while rejecting sectarianism and violence. Al-Khatib was one of the few prominent anti-Assad clerics who endured government repression to remain in Syria.
Two weeks after the start of the uprising in March 2011, al-Khatib called for the establishment of a democratic civil state in Syria. He also exhorted demonstrators to keep their protests peaceful and to move beyond sectarian differences.
Al-Khatib was detained four times by security forces during the uprising, most recently in April 2012. He finally left Syria for Cairo in July 2012.
In ideological terms, al-Khatib is close to the moderate Islamist profile of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, though he is not formally affiliated with the group. He more closely identifies with the Islamism of the Brotherhood’s Damascene branch, which is associated with Issam al-Attar, a former spiritual guide of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria who was exiled by the Baathist regime in the 1970s, than with its current, more hardline leadership from the Hama branch.