Thursday, September 01, 2011

More ominously from Syria

Again from Anthony Shadid:
Abdullah represents what the government insists it is fighting. He is a Salafist, an adherent to a puritanical Islam, though he disavows the term. To him, Salafists bear arms, and he understands that the moment he and others fire a bullet in Homs or anywhere else, the regime will have the justification it covets to crush them with even more force. But there was no question of his devotion to a state that adheres to Islam as its foundation, and he dismissed the comparatively liberal rhetoric of some Islamic activists, like the Muslim Brotherhood. “They want to satisfy the West, and they don’t want to satisfy Muslims,” he told me the next morning. “They say, ‘We’re a modern Islam.’ But there’s no such thing as modern Islam. There’s Islam, and there’s secularism.” We debated the imposition of religious law and whether Christians and Muslims could intermarry. For the first time since I met him, Abdullah grew angry at me, when I suggested that no Christian or Alawite would subscribe to his vision of the state he would build in the wake of the revolution. He quickly cooled, aware that he shouldn’t show his emotions. At one point, he even suggested that however he might feel, however draconian he believed religious law should be, he was still a minority in the opposition. As much as the activists here talk of unity in the face of government oppression, I often felt as I did in Iraq in those early months after the American invasion in 2003. The more people denied their differences, the more apparent they became. For Iyad, Abdullah and others, there was deep anger at Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite movement that has baldly supported the Syrian regime. That anger had spilled into chauvinism against Shiite Muslims, intensifying the hostility they already felt for Alawites. They understood the importance of nonviolence, but even Abdullah admitted that if Assad fell, sectarian vendettas would erupt in the countryside. One of the young men warned darkly that events “were headed toward violence.”


  1. Very interesting, Steve, but Hizbullah represent Twelver Shia, no? Surely Alawites are rather different?

    It is also interesting to ponder than some of the worse tyrants (Saddam and Assad) did run regimes that were relatively (and only relatively) tolerant of proper Levantine religious diversity.

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