“The Alawi Dilemma – Revisited,” By Khudr

The Alawi Dilemma – Revisited
By Khudr
For Syria Comment

June 20, 2011

Basil-Hafiz-Bashar

Dr. Joshua,

You are completely right when you say that most Alawis these days either support the regime (better to say that they support Assad family rule) or are living in complete denial of the situation.

I have discovered that a number of my fellow Alawis who used to be staunch critics of Asad family rule are now championing of Bashar. Some who used to curse anytime the name of the ruling family was invoked (in private of course), have now replaced their own identity with Bashar’ s on their Facebook page.

Why do they do this? To understand such odd phenomenon I recommend everyone to read or re-read the essay written six years ago by Karfan. He explains the psychological underpinnings of this occurrence in a most precise way. The post title is: “Myth No.7 : Alawi is still a religious sect”.

I will avoid quoting from it here as it is still available on the net for of all to read. I direct all interested in the subject to read it.

The gist of his argument is that Alawi identity has been transformed by Assad rule. No longer is it centered on religious, cultural or tribal life. Because Alawi life has been so transformed over the last century, the single common bond uniting us is Assad rule itself. Our identity as Alawis is defined as “that minority sect ruling this country.”

Alawis have been living in a complete sub-conscious denial of this fact for decades now and only few, such as Karfan, had ventured into admitting this reality.

What is it to be an Alawi exactly?

Is Alawism a religion? Alawi beliefs as ideas are too shallow to constitute a religion or a sect of a religion. Actually “Alawism” is built on tribal and communal attachment or quasi-ethnicity rather than being centered on ideas. You become an Alawi by being born Alawi.

Courtesies aside, the “initiation ritual” of male Alawis into the religion consists of kissing a few hands and memorizing a seriously ridiculous script in a small memo book. Frequently, one is given the script without his “teacher” or initiator ever bothering to see afterwards whether you memorized it or not. Most of the time your “initiator” knows that your opinion of the whole process and the script is as high as your opinion of “Tom & Jerry” cartoons. Yet he considers you an Alawi and relies on you as such, simply because you are born one and expected to be one.

Female Alawis are “lucky” enough that they do not have to go through this meaningless ritual, yet they are expected to be staunch Alawis because they are born Alawis.

Note that this expectation is not one sided. All other sects and groups around you in Syria and elsewhere expect you to be an Alawi if you are born an Alawi. Hence the usual question “where are you from in Tartous or Latakia?” If you are born in an area where Alawis live, then that’s what you are; end of the story.

If you want to venture into further scholastic study, you will know that the secret books dealing with Alawi beliefs number about five. Their content is as inscrutable and meaningless to a twenty first century person as is the book of rituals. This does not include the Shia theological works, which fill the libraries of most informed Alawi Sheiks whether they regard themselves as true Shi`a or not. I refer here only to those works that are devoted to pure Alawi theology.

It is true that Jews define themselves by culture and ethnic belonging as do the adherents of similar religions. All the same, Jews have an established doctrine and philosophy, but if it does not suit them, they can simply declare that they are “non-practicing Jews.” They can define themselves as Jews as a cultural and ethnic affinity.

There is no such thing as “non-practicing Alawi,” which is something many of us have struggled with. This is a problem in no way unique to Alawis. All the Arab/Islamic sects suffer from this short coming. To call yourself a “non-practicing Muslim” is to be laughed out of mosque. We, young Arab Muslims — and Arab Christians for that matter — do not have the luxury of being able to identify with our religion as a cultural and identity, without being required to buy into the complete religious “package” as it was defined centuries ago by a handful of doughty scholars.

Then what are Alawis exactly?

It is not wrong to surmize that our collective Alawi identity is centered largely on our culture, the coastal accent, the special celebrations, the habits, etc.. Most of these differ considerably from one geographical area to another. However we all have one thing in common: we are united by our common sense of injustice and persecution over the past centuries. Many will argue that the statute of limitations has run out on our sense of persecution, particularly as Alawis have dominated Syria’s security state for almost fifty years. “How can such feelings continue to this day,” many ask. But they do. A common sense of persecution is an important identity marker. It does not matter that we have been able to flex our muscle for decades. The shared sense of persecution is alive and well in our collective psyche.

Alawis also differ from the Sunni majority in their customs. “Difference” from Sunnis is corner stone of our identity. We perceive ourselves as the “other.,” those who are “different“ from them! This also is hardly unique to Alawis; minorities the world over define themselves in opposition to the majority “other.” This truth seems so obvious and uninteresting to me today, but in my teen years it was a source of considerable consternation and confusion. When my sister put on the hijab, she was castigated by my father who insisted that “We don’t wear the hijab.” This, despite his insistence over the years that “Alawis are Muslims no different from them.”

In a free society, the cultural part of sub-national identity can be expressed openly and proudly without undermining the overarching national community and bond of citizenship. The minorities in such mature societies can live in harmony with other citizen groups, without having to stifle or hid their communal affinities and habits.

But let’s return to Karfan’s analysis. Common Alawi cultural identity was not allowed to be institutionalized or proudly expressed. Even Druze, Ismailis and the various sub sects of Sunni Islam, such as the Sufi orders, for example, have been forced to go underground and reform themselves almost out of existence as it were. In the 1940s and 1950s Syrian place names were changed to reflect our new “national” existence at the price of erasing local identities and heros. I agree with Karfan that Hafiz al-Assad and his top leaders, such as Ali Douba, perpetuated and deepened this effort to wipe out and obscure sub-national identification. Baathism, amplified the prejudices of Arab nationalists against local, religious, and cultural peculiarities to an absurd degree. It would have been suicidal during the late president’s rule to establish any sort of gathering or group of Alawis under any cultural, social or religious banner. We couldn’t even mention the name of our communities openly. We lived in a stifling world of taboos and social conformism.

The only meeting ground or assembly point for Alawis, where we didn’t have to pretend that we were something we weren’t, was deep in the inner sanctums of the security state. We found ourselves in the clubby security of the secret services, the Republican Guard, the army officer academies, and the worker and agricultural syndicates in the coastal area. These were all regime sanctioned and established institutions that linked our identity to the security state and Assad rule.

This is where Karfan comes from when he states that we have been systematically deprived of any attachment to our religious, cultural and social identity under Hafiz rule. Thus, you can see where his claim comes from: “We were turned into identity-less supporters of “Asad’s” rule…  meaningless tribes ranked by how much we support “him”.”

The full ramifications of this fact were not visible or even felt among Alawis until the current crisis challenged us with the notion of radical change. Alawis are subconsciously realizing that being an Alawi means nothing outside of Asad family rule. We haven’t much history – at least not that we have documented. We have been too busy pretending that we are no different from Muslims to build our common identity. We suffer from a devastating lack of institutionalized cultural or social institutions and marker apart from those connected to the Assad regime. We don’t even know much about our religion to grasp on to. Alawis have defined themselves over the past 40 years as the rulers of Syria, and not much else.

You can then understand why almost all Alawis, even those who had shown fierce opposition toward the Assad regime, are turning into “Basharists” now that the entire edifice is under attack. A subconscious fear of losing our identity supplied by Assad rule and the security state is consuming us and taking precedence over rational thought.

Again, this is not something new. We saw it in Germany or Japan during WWII. Two very civilized populations turned into blind followers of a crazy elite that committed atrocities and led their nations to destruction. In both cases, the very identity of the nation was linked to the person of the leader, Hitler and Showa. To defend the leader in the minds of the people was nothing less than to defend their own identity.

We should be careful not to compare too closely the situation in Syria to that of Iraq under Saddam Hussein. His Sunni followers certainly identified with Saddam and his rule, but they had a confident Sunni identity to fall back on. The Sunnis have long fashioned themselves as the natural leaders of the Arabs and Islam. They can point to uninterrupted dominance in countries stretching from Morocco to Saudi Arabia. They have an illustrious history and established religion. They did not need to fight to the last breath to protect their heritage and they did not.

Alawis today believe that they are under attack – not because anyone is actually attacking them as a group of people or community; they are not. Rather, they feel under attack because the regime is threatened and may fall. This is tantamount – at least subconsciously – to their identity being shattered. Similar to those German and Japanese who wasted their lives fighting a lost battle street-by-street, the Alawis will fight to the end. It is hard to convince someone fighting for such high stakes to abandon their cause.

The Syrian opposition, of course, does not have the benefit of the American army, as Great Britain had in WWII or the Iraqi opposition in 2003. There will be no street-by-street fight. My point is, whether the Syrian opposition is able to marshal Western economic sanctions against the Assad regime, or mobilize continued demonstrations with the effect of paralyzing the Syrian economy, or even attracting limited foreign intervention, it should expect staunch resistance. In all likelihood most Alawis will stand behind the Assads.

If no alternative is found for Syria other than confrontation to the bitter end, then I am afraid the closing words of Karfan continue to ring true: “another thing that is common to us Alawis: We have no future, at least not one that is worth looking forward to.

*Khudr has written several other excellent articles for Syria Comment in the past. They are “What do Sunnis intend for Alawis following regime change?” and Asad’s Alawi dilemma

Comments (390)


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101. 873 said:

Treason Update on ANOTHER dual-traitor spy. This one comes with the express backing of an AIPAC-American Congressman.

Egypt arrests former Ackerman intern on espionage charges By Rich Bockmann June 16, 2011 yournabe.com
Congressman tries to help Oakland Gds. resident accused of spying for Israel on university trip

Ilan Grapel, a former intern in U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman’s office, was arrested late last week in Egypt on charges of being an Israeli spy.
U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) said Tuesday he had been in contact with all possible parties concerning his former intern, Ilan Grapel, who was arrested late last week in Egypt on charges of being an Israeli spy.

“I have been assured from the highest levels in Israel… this kid had nothing to do with espionage,” Ackerman said during a conference call with reporters. “It’s an unfortunate mistake we’re trying to straighten out.”

Grapel, who has was born in the United States and has dual citizenship with Israel, left for Egypt in May to take part in a refugee resettlement program through Emory University in Georgia, where he is third-year law student scheduled to graduate next May. The congressman said the Bronx High School of Science graduate was working with a non-government organization to help resettle refugees from Iraq and Sudan. “Not to be part of a revolution,” he reiterated.

Grapel lives in Oakland Gardens.

A university statement on the matter praised Grapel as an active member of the Emory Law community, citing his nomination for an outstanding student worker award and several volunteer activities. He had received degrees in economics and international relations from Johns Hopkins University and later joined the Israeli army, where he was wounded in 2006 during the war in Lebanon, Ackerman said.
According to the congressman, Grapel was using his own name while wearing his Israeli army uniform and posting pictures of himself to his Facebook account when he was arrested and detained for a period of 15 days. The New York Post said Grapel is 27.

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June 23rd, 2011, 12:13 am

 

102. Abughassan said:

I got to watch the full video of the alleged army defector Riyadh Ahmad where he claims that the army committed atrocities and encouraged humiliation and assault on unarmed civilians. Most of what he described were,as usual,stories being told to him by a third party,he admitted that his superiors did not trust his loyalty and they excused him from going to the frontline, but he was “brave” enough to mention specific names and even where some officers came from.the list was also published by a guy here who claims he supports peaceful change. In reality,that list is a potential assassination list,and in most countries is considered a crime because it insidiously justify taking revenge from those names as a mean of street justice.this represents a new low for the opposition and anybody who was careless or evil enough to introduce the video.pity a nation that eats its children and can only live for revenge…و اذا أتاكم فاسق بنبأ

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June 23rd, 2011, 12:15 am

 

103. syau said:

Averroes,

Thanks for the link. Anti Syrian propaganda channels will continue to air fabricated vidoes over and over again as they reach a broader range of viewers than Aldounia tv does. All it does is contribute to their loss of credibility once the truth comes out.

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June 23rd, 2011, 12:39 am

 

104. louai said:

First thank you Khudr and Dr. Landis
I was very interested to read Khuder assessment to the Alawis position from the revolution NOW as he wrote before about the Aawis and why they may or may not support a revolution against Mr President .
i do not think the late president intended to wipe the Alawis identity away and make them ‘supporters’ I see him as a secular person who had such big influence on his sect because of his success and intelligence he also provided protection , I think Hafiz wanted a secular Syria and he knew that its impossible to achieve that in one or two generations that’s why he used his influence and leadership skills to secularize his own sect and he succeeded with the help of the History (years and years of discrimination)
I don’t think the Alawis are defending their identity here, maybe partially but what they are defending here is their existence !! this revolutions was imported from the past and we saw many killings and slogans were purely sectarian ,the only clear goal the revolution has is to get rid of the president (the Syrian revoulation 2011 against basher al asad)
The opposition is working hard to inject the sectarian terms and divide the country into majority and minorities
The Alwis are defending Syria as we know it now they are with other minorities and the majority of Sunnis protecting the country from becoming another Iraq.
The only minority in Syria now are those who want to get rid of the president at any price ‘the majority’ of the Syrians are with reforms and against this particular revolution.

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June 23rd, 2011, 1:02 am

 

105. Revlon said:

#96 Dear Syria no Kandahar; you seem to be very emotional about this guy, so much so that you did not “read” my answer!

You said ” But do you CONDEMN a3r3our”

I repeat again:
I do not know Sheikh Al3ar3oor.
I do not follow his or any other sheikh’s speaches.
I do not idolise A3ar3oor or any other living person.

Now, if you want me to judge a statement or an activity of his, then I would kindly ask you to provide it to me, in the same manner I provided Jr’s statement to you.

I never judge people!
I only state opinions trigered by statements or actions made by people.
I do not liken my opposites to germs.
For they are as imperfect and decent humans as I am.

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June 23rd, 2011, 1:16 am

 

106. Revlon said:

#98 Dear ABUGHASSAN,
In your comment on a video link to a youtube video of an army defector, and interpretation thereof you said:

“ the list was also published by a guy here who claims he supports peaceful change. In reality,that list is a potential assassination list,and in most countries is considered a crime because it insidiously justify taking revenge from those names as a mean of street justice”

I say:
The names were listed as facts, corroborating the officer’s claims, much like the designation of his unit.
The names that I listed are already part of a published Youtube video.
The masses demonstrating on the street have neither the time, nor the luxury to read your or anybody’s comment on this blog.
When they do surf the net, they would rather surfe Facebook and Youtube and get first hand news.
They are better informed than me or anyone on this blog.

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June 23rd, 2011, 1:37 am

 

107. Syrian Commando said:

>I never judge people!

Yes, you clearly have condemned Bashaar without giving him a chance by continually calling him “Jr”. You know full well who a3r3our is and refuse to condemn him because you support him along with your islamists, am I correct?

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June 23rd, 2011, 1:55 am

 

108. Syria no kandahar said:

Dear Revlun
I was not the one who made the statement it was Syrian commando if pay attention,I am not emotional about him or any thing else.I found that your answer is sufficient,but there is no one who can deny that religion is the engine of this movement,and that is why I,and most of syrians,don’t support it.think about Egypt revolution,did you ever hear them chanting:Allah Akbar.This Islamic movement is like a scorpion it dies during delivery,the little newborn scorpions will move around and grew up ,but they will stay religious.you see ,in Egypt you have Sunnis and Copts,and that is it.in Syria you have 18 sectors,and things can’t be simple.The biggest mistake you guys did was coming up with religious Islamic revolution,or to be mor accurate Sunni Revolution,this is a suicide,it is too late to change the colour it is deeply painted.You have to be in much stronger position to be so snoby and refuse any offers from the government.The balance of powers is not in your favor,the government is offering you unconditional dialog opportunity,what is wrong with that?you will say you don’t negotiate with killers,can you tell me when did you get your sainthood?your guys are killers too,be realistic.So the lay Syrian who is different than me and you living abroad,has a lot of stake in this,and the more the regime give in,and you don’t,the more you will be hated by the lay Syrian.So even mr Alshafka or mr Taifur can renew there Syrian passport and be in Damascus next week ,do you think that will make them better or worse in our eyes?Sadat went to Akuds and egyptians 30years later admire him for that,right?so is it mor honorable for them to go to Damascus now ,or later in a French tank?After all Assad is Syrian like them ,if he has blood on his hand or if they have blood on there hands,that is not the issue,the issue is tomorrow,yesterday you can’t change.so if you keep insisting on your current agenda,and act as if you are dealing with a dead regime and 99%of syrians are with you ,you are very wrong.And the more the regime gives in and you don’t ,the more you will lose your credibility as somebody who is iterersted in Syria’s well being.

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June 23rd, 2011, 1:55 am

 

109. Syrian Commando said:

>the more you will lose your credibility as somebody who is iterersted in Syria’s well being.

What credibility? They have zero. They are not interested in reform, only chaos, otherwise they will be in Damascus discussing matters directly with the legitimate and popular government. They’re still in denial: great majority of Syrians don’t want them, bar the Erdogan/A3r3our lovers.

As for French tanks … they won’t even make it to the coast, I assure you. Syria is not a weak country.

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June 23rd, 2011, 1:59 am

 

110. OFF THE WALL said:

Dear Yazan

Is it possible to qualify the president’s statement about him being only a Muhammadian as part of the transformation Khudr has alluded to. I see it in a slightly different light.

I think your comment about the eradication of the syrian mosaic is spot on. Khudr’s article was attacked because he talks about differences. Shouldn’t these differences be embraced instead of being eradicated and rigidly classified as taboo. This is one of the many failures of secular Arabs and Nationalists. It is their attempts to “homogenize” the social fabric instead of celebrating its colorful components. In that context, all sects should be respected as long as the members of all of these sects/ethnicity conform to a model of a non cultural person celebrating an idealist version of the “Syrian/ or Arab” who operates in a strictly enforced hierarchy of identities, which in itself is a denial of the sect’s existence beyond its name as well as denial of all other intellectual and cultural undertones that do not conform to any group.

Under such model, the person’s excercise of nationalism must fully be detached from his/her excercize of all other layers of belonging. This ignores history, which seems to indicate that belonging is multi-layered and politics is not that seperable from culture and heritage. The layers interwine even if they may be contradictory. Any attempt to enforce a heirarchy on belonging will result in the narrowest being always the strongest and in a situation where a pyramid stands upside-down.

When secularism ignores differences and refuses to accept them it becomes the other version of salafism. The former seeks a colorless future, and the latter idolizes a past that exists only in folk tales about a glorious first few decades of Islam while ignoring the ugly reality of tribal in-fight within the Muslim community, which erupted on the eve of the prophet’s death.

Is secular humanism the answer?

I do expect and hope for a powerful and well informed reply, probably from thoughful Syrian Nationalists. It should not be very difficult because the idea presented above are still very far from being coherent.

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June 23rd, 2011, 2:06 am

 

111. Syrian Commando said:

It’s not only the content, intention and actions but also the timing.

You cannot ignore the real reason behind the publication of this piece.

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June 23rd, 2011, 2:24 am

 

112. 873 said:

Vultures closing in for the kill. Libya, Syria next up for A Coke & A Smile!

Top US senators join business trip to Tunisia, Egypt
Wednesday, June 22, 2011 AFP

WASHINGTON – Top senators John McCain and John Kerry will accompany a delegation of US business leaders on Friday to Tunisia and Egypt to discuss economic opportunities in the North African countries, McCain’s office said.

McCain, a Republican, and Kerry, a Democrat, will visit the two countries with General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt, along with officials from Boeing, Coca-Cola, Bechtel, ExxonMobil, Marriot and Dow, confirmed McCain’s office on Wednesday.

On Friday, the delegation planned to meet with current Tunisian Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi, and representatives from the business community.

The group will then head to Egypt on Saturday and Sunday, where they will meet Prime Minister Essam Charaf, the head of Egypt’s Armed Forces Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawiand, and Egyptian business leaders. They will also visit the Cairo Stock Exchange and a Coca-Cola factory.

The visit comes as the two lawmakers join Independent Senator Joe Lieberman in sponsoring a bill to create economic assistance funds for Egypt and Tunisia, both rocked with popular unrest and subsequent regime change in recent months.

The purpose of the funds is to provide capital to local entrepreneurs in the hope of creating “thousands of jobs,” which both countries desperately need, said Kerry, who chairs the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

In proposing the bill, the elected officials urged the United States to back the revolutionary movements across the region known as the “Arab Spring.” The money, tens of millions of dollars, would be provided by funds already allocated to the US State Department.

The bill’s text was approved in May by Kerry’s committee but must still be adopted by the Senate as a whole, and then the House of Representatives, before going before President Barack Obama for approval.

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June 23rd, 2011, 2:32 am

 

113. Revlon said:

# 104 Syria No Kandahar, I regret the error.

96 Dear Syrian Commando,
You said
“But do you CONDEMN a3r3our?”
Please refer to post #101, for it was intended to address your question.

#103 Dear commando, calling B Asad Jr carries no judgement, good or bad.
He is Asad Jr, and shortly Jr.

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June 23rd, 2011, 2:35 am

 

114. Usama said:

Egypt’s Nilesat warns Safa and Wisal about the content of their broadcasts.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TU4iqFFrKCo

Now let’s see if Saudi Arabia’s Arabsat will do the same. Highly doubtful.

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June 23rd, 2011, 2:50 am

 

115. Syrian Commando said:

Just call him Bashaar, the context should be clear: “Jr” is derisory.

The funny thing is a3r3our’s own name is derisory. I suggest you get acquainted with him so that you can find the time to condemn him… he is despicable.

#110

Interesting development. I doubt Saudi Arabia will.

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June 23rd, 2011, 2:52 am

 

116. Chris W said:

Article: curate’s egg – good in parts, rotten in others.

The bit about ‘Japanese and Germans’ just seemed like a transparent and shallow attempt to describe those opposed to the revolution as Nazis.

Much of the rest of it was the ‘me me me’ style of writing. “What I say must be true, because a certain thing happened to me me me.”

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June 23rd, 2011, 4:06 am

 

117. Syrian Commando said:

I think its time to stop calling it a revolution, it’s merely an Islamist insurrection.

The reasonable heads are now in the reform process, everyone else wants to destroy Syria. It takes bravery to try and reform, cowardice to stand the streets shouting empty slogans and firing your guns to “allahu akbar”.

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June 23rd, 2011, 4:11 am

 

118. Revlon said:

#106 Dear OFF THE WALL,
Your essay strikes chord with how I regard and value culture and religion in Syrian society.

The word secular is as threatening to conservatives as the word religious is to liberals.
I think both words have been misused and abused enough that it would be better to do away with both.

The Syrian social system is partly genetically transmitted, as social traits in individuals, and is modulated by thousands of years of heritage of cumulative divine messages and time tested common laws, traditions, and human knowledge.

As such, the best social contract of a nationhood would be the one that is loose enough to embrace all of the above.

Consequently one can describe it as neither secular, nor religious.

I like to call it the human culture society/nationhood, as opposed to sectarian or religious.

As such, the constitution should guarantee the basic human rights and be founded on its cultural pillars.

These are just quick thoughts.
I thank you for bringing up the subject.

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June 23rd, 2011, 5:05 am

 

119. Yazan said:

OTW,
I agree with your analysis with regards to the failure of secular/national Arabism. The ideology was destined to failure by its own design. Such a narrow and uncompromising outlook to what constitutes identity is not compatible with an age that is characterized by massive movements of peoples and goods, and massive intermingling of different cultures. It is a 100 years late, at the very least.

To explore one’s (and society’s) many facets that constitute its identity, one must not shy away from elaboration and contradictions. When Tara asked me whether I was a Alawi, I got stuck, with a question (although asked with the best of intentions, I am sure) that indirectly pigeon-holes me in a very narrow place, one which I do not identify with. I don’t understand people who can answer such questions with a simple and short Yes/No. I feel that they are ignorant of a fascinating continuos fabric within themselves.

But that is what these past 40 years have done. Religious education is a glaring example in which this segregation takes a serious toll on small children (I remember vividly how Christian students would be herded to another classroom, and how they’d have to wait outside the door if they finished before us). So we learned that these people are different, but we didn’t learn about each other, and later on they told us we all must become the same.

History was one of the main areas that were completely rewritten and forged to stand for this homogenous hegemony, if you will. The history of Alawis alone under the French occupation alone is one striking example. I don’t see how explaining historical facts (including that a majority of Alawis did support the occupation, and did serve in its ranks (including my other grandfather), and that Saleh al-Ali’s insurrection was also a sectarian one that left serious bruises in the relationship between Ismailis and Alawis, especially around Qadmous and Misyaf, etc.) would taint the Alawis. These are historical facts that need/and should be studied within their historical context. It was very natural that an oppressed, impoverished, and long alienated sect would welcome the French as liberators. It doesn’t mean they are traitors, or less nationalistic than any other component of Syria at the time. Simply because the idea of Syrian nationalism was still a very weak one that only existed in large urban centres.

These are but a few example areas.

What now?

Well, the very first thing I think should be done is that we need to resurrect our communal/collective memory and liberate it from these narrow dogmatic narratives. We need to start writing and reading about our personal, and subjective histories. We need to learn more about each other, about the last 40 years. We need to learn about Hama, and what happened there, we need to learn about the assassinations carried out by the MB, we need to learn about Tadmor, and the purging of the centre and radical left in the 80s (Communist Labor party, and Maktab Siyasi, among others). These are complete blackholes in every Syrian’s history. We need to start rewriting a more honest representation of that history. And that applies to all other facets of our culture. Be it in arts, literature, politics, etc.

We’ve been covered by a cloak of ignorance for 40 years and when we woke up, all out ailments were on display; sectarianism, classism, racism, ignorance, you name it. And now we must face up to all of them, whether the revolution materializes or not is unimportant by this stage, the disintegration of society is all too glaring to ignore.

I can’t claim any insights on how the road to achieve such a national rebuilding scheme could be laid, nor is this an informative and coherent reply. I am simply building on your thoughts to try and find the beginning of the rope (taraf al-7abl).

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June 23rd, 2011, 5:11 am

 

120. Syrian Commando said:

#114

Good, reasonable post. I wish more of your side will discuss matters like this.

BTW, Arabism is dead, what a joke. Who likes the Arabs? No body. Not even the Arabs themselves!!!!!!

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June 23rd, 2011, 5:12 am

 

121. Mina said:

What kind of political dialogue can start with “whose side are you on” ?
http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/congress/faced-with-congressional-revolt-on-libya-clinton-asks-whose-side-are-you-on/2011/06/22/AGCL7bgH_print.html

(example comes from above…)

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June 23rd, 2011, 5:12 am

 

122. Shami said:

Those who cricizie this article lack any argument.
This issue is recurrent and the article is close to the truth.
I often read here that the sunnis are in love with the regime ,the mukhabarat and army officers , Syria is a paradise for all ,this is far from the reality.
The resetment against the alawites is huge ,dont be deluded by the hypocrites in the current context.
It’s very hard for an alawite to integrate the syrian business community(the corrupt civil servants and army and mukhabarat officers are intermediate)because of the lack of trust.
The alawite issue must be debated before the end day of this regime.
In my opnion ,the alawites have no other choice other than to be integrated into the syrian social body though marriages ,the sunni-alawite marriages are rare.I would agree with those menhebak if for example a daughter of mufti Hassoun marries an alawite,we all know the reality of the syrian context under this regime,it’s a false world that like false and hypocrite slogans.
This alawite culture of fear and hatred of the surrounding environment is no more acceptable.This marginalization is suicidal.
Guenine ties must be build on trust and love.

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June 23rd, 2011, 5:21 am

 

123. Syrian Commando said:

You’re debating “it” now in order to attempt to create sectarian strife. That’s it, pure and simple and you’re not even trying to hide your sectarianism. There’s no need to discuss outstanding issues as it will vanish with reform. You think the government will fall, I tell you, without a war, it will outlast every western government that is against it in its current form.

You can’t outsmart us.

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June 23rd, 2011, 5:26 am

 

124. Birgitte Rahbek said:

excellent article, but how can one tell if a person/Syrian is Alawi or Sunni?

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June 23rd, 2011, 5:33 am

 

125. Mina said:

Waw, Shami is showing his true face:
“the alawites have no other choice other than to be integrated into the syrian social body though marriages”

You post from Saudi Arabia?

I would like to point to people who have accused JL of a double agenda here that he probably posted this 1)in answer to Tara’s request 2)to promote an interesting debate.

And we got an interesting debate. I do think that the Soviets were due to fail because they thought they could dispose of religion. Now even in the so-called secular West religion made a come back on the stage and it is not clear yet how to integrate it in curriculums and in the society. So this debate poses question to everybody, and shows again that indeed what is needed is to invent a third way.

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June 23rd, 2011, 5:35 am

 

126. Syrian Commando said:

The mechanisms of the failures of religious society have already been described by the greatest thinkers in modern history:

Friedrich Nietzsche
Johann K. Schmidt (aka Max Stirner)

There’s nothing left to debate in that regard. How to repair the current situation — if you surplant one religion (traditional) you’ll only get another (neo-liberalism).

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June 23rd, 2011, 5:38 am

 

127. Shami said:

Mina ,it’s my opinion ,integration through love and marriage.
Do you have an other idea?

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June 23rd, 2011, 5:41 am

 

128. Syrian Commando said:

Shami, it’s not just your idea by the way. The Australian colonists thought they could do the same thing to the aboriginals. See stolen generation.

There’s no need for inter-marraige, Syrian Alawis are Syrians just like any other Syrian. Our diversity of views is what gives our nation strength.

Anyway, check this out:

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xjgthj_paltalk-leaks-expose-conspiracy-against-syria-part-1_news

Gotta hand it to Syrians, the enemy thought we are the weak link in the chain of resistance but it turns out we are the very CORE of it.

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June 23rd, 2011, 5:50 am

 

129. Syrian Commando said:

BREAKING NEWS: Turkey and Syria are literally at the very brink of war as Turkey threatens to build “refugee” places on the Syrian side of the border. Syrian army will engage any Turkish trespassers.

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June 23rd, 2011, 6:06 am

 

130. mjabali said:

Shami

Do you think the Alawis are infidels/Kuffar or not?

I expect you to NOT answer this question that I have asked you many times before the same way Revlon did not answer the well balanced comment number 104 posted by Syria No Kandahar.

Your “invitation” to integrate the Alawis to the Sunni body is laughable. What about if the Alawis like what they are and want to preserve their tradition? is it that tainted in your opinion that it have to disappear?

What would the Alawi women say about this deal? From being liberated, respected, learned and well to do to be covered with a burqa and just bring more kids to this world and get beaten up by a male who thinks he is applying the words of a god! You must be out of your mind my friend.

The Sunnis of Syria did not do anything to assure the minorities with a bright future. The past and the present indicate a new post war Iraq to come to Syria.

Violence is going to escalate if there is no dialogue in the near future, and sooner or later this will spill into the countries on the side like Lebanon, Turkey and for sure Jordan and Israel.

The near future of this area is bleak unless the cool heads win. But, so far we have not seen anyone to step up and be a leader of the new era that will include all. This is why transition in Syria should be gradual and through well balanced and thought of measures starting with real parties.

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June 23rd, 2011, 6:30 am

 

131. HS said:

Please kindly note :

Some people are mixing up lose and loose. In particular, a lot of people are writing loose when they really mean lose. Here are the definitions of the two words from dictionary:

loose [lOOs] adj
not fastened or pre-packed; not tied up or confined; able to move freely; not tight, not firmly fixed; not close-fitting; careless, inaccurate, vague; dissolute, immoral; not closely woven; flabby; (of bowels) inclined to diarrhoea;

lose (p/t and p/part lost) [lOOz] v/t
i no longer have; be deprived of by accident or misfortune; mislay, fail to find; fail to get or win; be too late for; be bereaved of; waste; be defeated or beaten; suffer loss, become worse off; fail to hear, see or understand; cause or allow to perish;
lose out (US) be defeated after a struggle.

It may be an indicator of ???

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June 23rd, 2011, 7:01 am

 

132. Shami said:

Mjabali,

The alawite religion is a syncretism that integrate old middle eastern religions,christianity and shia’ism.
And i dont care if somebody is muslim ,jew ,atheist or christian ,the important things for me are morality,honesty,kindness,integrity,bravery and those values are not restricted to a group of people.

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June 23rd, 2011, 7:21 am

 

133. Tara said:

Yazan & Off The Wall,

#106 & 115

Really quite impressive dialogue that I totally agree with it’s content.

Yazan, I always mentally disapproved the Christian children being herded out during religion class in school. This was awful and must be changed somehow.

I also agree very much with celebrating the mosaic fabric rather than homogenizing it. That what would make us culturally rich and what would actually strength us. How beautiful your comment ” we need to learn about each other” is. Hama, tadmur, MB assassinations, Sednaya, Aroor, Ibn taymiah within the context of that era of history, Alawis role during and the french occupation within the context of their history being
oppressed. I asked the commentators to discuss Hama and was totally ignored. My intention was not really scaremongering or hate mongering. It was rather to initiate a process of healing. I was hoping that Syrians who live in the west can somehow see the big picture and propose a solution but all what you get here is being name calling. There is rare substance from any discussion. I must say that your upbringing is very similar to mine. I also called myself a non practicing Sunni for lack of a better phrase.

All in all, that dialogue was a glimpse of hope to Tara. Thanks.

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June 23rd, 2011, 7:26 am

 

134. Darryl said:

Many of these comments about one’s religion and syrian fabric etc etc. are not going to solve the fundemental problem facing the midldle east people.

One of the most fundemental issues in Syria is that the majority of the population cannot change their religion. Hence, we have people who are not-practcing this sect and that sect. The Baath with it’s secular ideology was trying to solve this problem but it clearly cannot and they did a good job by removing ones religion from the identity cards years ago. The solution going forward is:

1. Freedom to change your religion, Syria will then have a continious and “smoothed” population and tolerance will be greatly increased.
2. Legalize civil mariages so that interfaith marriages can inncrease and create a more “smoothe” society instead of having sharp edges or people placed in compartments.

Otherwise, people will always try to pretend to be nice to each other and supress their dislike toward the other groups. Until it tries to resurface like now and blow up in eveeyones face. The west is sucessful in this aspect as we see Christians becoming Muslims and vice versa and learn to tolerate each other more.

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June 23rd, 2011, 8:10 am

 

135. Syrian Commando said:

The problem isn’t religion but human nature.

What Syria has is special, what you’re trying to do here is destroy it. It is simply a state that can be toggled through attrition and this is precisely what the purpose of this blog is, to, through attrition, continually point out differences… and pretend there is a problem.

The only problem is the Islamists. Why don’t we write articles about them? They are the only people creating problems and trying to hijack the Sunni sect (and failing, I should mention).

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June 23rd, 2011, 8:58 am

 

136. Tara said:

Why,

I was thinking about HA all last night. I can not hate them even if I want to ( and I did want to). I think HA needs literally a shock therap. Psychiatrists use shock therapy on the brain in patients who have severe psychotic depression to help them snap out of it and cardiologists use shock therapy on the heart to restore a normal rhythm. Syed Hassan needs literally a shock therapy to the heart I think as supporting the oppression is an irregular rhythm for him. I hope you do not take an offense in this. It is just my 2 un-coffee-ed cents.

One last thing. I hope the Turkish govrnment sends us Ezel this week to the Syrian refugee camp (just to be fair across gender).

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June 23rd, 2011, 9:10 am

 

137. Revlon said:

#129, Dear Darryl, I am not aware that inter-religion marriages are illegal.
I personally know of a few such inter-religions and intersect ones.

Changing of religion:
I am Moslem, and I speak from my understanding of this religion, based on reading the Quran.
Islam is the religion of God.
All messengers of God preached one religion; Islam, i.e. surrender to God.
All nations of the world were preached Islam by messengers who spoke their native languages.

Messengers that are familiar to us in the Middle East include many; most notably Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed.
Successive messages were not exclusionary by rather complementary

You may adopt any one, several or all of the messages and be called a Moslem and a faithful.
Jesus, Moses, and Abraham were Moslems and preached Islam.

Followers of Mo7ammad believe not only in his message, but also in all holy books, angels, and prophets, without discriminating between his prophets.
Here is the supportive verse from the Quran, in both Arabic and English translation:

آمَنَ الرَّسُولُ بِمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْهِ مِن رَّبِّهِ وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ ۚ كُلٌّ آمَنَ بِاللَّهِ وَمَلَائِكَتِهِ وَكُتُبِهِ وَرُسُلِهِ لَا نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِّن رُّسُلِهِ ۚ وَقَالُوا سَمِعْنَا وَأَطَعْنَا ۖ غُفْرَانَكَ رَبَّنَا وَإِلَيْكَ الْمَصِيرُ

(285) The Messenger believeth in what hath been revealed to him from his Lord, as do the men of faith. Each one (of them) believeth in Allah, His angels, His books, and His messengers. “We make no distinction (they say) between one and another of His messengers.” And they say: “We hear, and we obey: (We seek) Thy forgiveness, our Lord, and to Thee is the end of all journeys.” (The Cow”).

Holy books have answers to achieving harmony.

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June 23rd, 2011, 9:20 am

 

138. Yazan said:

Tara,
I think the process of healing is already in progress, outside. On a small scale, but I know of initiatives and people working on this. I’m hopeful.

This is not a venue for high-level discourse. There was a time where I simply enjoyed reading the comments section here more than articles, without even commenting. But most of the frequent commenters have been chased off by people thinking this is an advocacy forum (from both sides). But looking at you, WD, and OTW, there seems to still be a little place away from the shouting matches outside. A bit surreal, no?

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June 23rd, 2011, 9:26 am

 

139. aboali said:

this article in very insightful and pretty accurate in describing the Alawi predicament and psyche after 4 decades of Assad rule. The few Alawi friends I had who were against Bashar and his regime, did a dramatic about face as the revolution started, a very telling symptom of the culture of fear of persecution embedded into their subconscious thinking.

In other ominous news, the Syrian Lira vs U.S dollar has hit 52.25 today, Aleppo black market prices. The end of this regime economically seems to be closer than anyone had expected.

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June 23rd, 2011, 9:42 am

 

140. Syrian Commando said:

>In other ominous news, the Syrian Lira vs U.S dollar has hit 52.25 today, Aleppo black market prices. The end of this regime economically seems to be closer than anyone had expected.

Keep the lies streaming.

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June 23rd, 2011, 10:06 am

 

141. EHSANI2 said:

That the subject matter in this post talks about religious and sectarian issues is to be encouraged and welcomed and not be rejected and pushed under the rug as some seem to advocate. As this page clearly spells out on top, this forum is about “Syrian politics, history, and religion”.

The author of the note has offered us an interesting perspective on the way he feels Alawis view the world from their prism. Yazan enriched the discussion (as usual) by adding his own perspective as well. Those who have issue with the discussion need not cry foul and label others as sectarian without telling us precisely what part of the note they disagree with. It would help if they also offer their own evidence to the contrary.

Syrians must not avoid sectarian discussions. They must embrace them. Those that claim that Syria is somehow immune from regional sectarian and religious tensions are in denial. Religion does play a major role in the region. Feeling uncomfortable with such does not make it go away. Charges of “you are sectarian” are silly. Deep at the core, nearly everyone is sectarian. Those most uncomfortable with this subject are the minorities. This is logical. Minorities fear a dominant religious identity to the society that they reside in because their position will suffer when compared to the majority.

It was very helpful for me personally to read how Mr. Khudr sees the world from his Alawi prism. One should encourage Sunnis, Christians and Kurds to offer their perspective as well. Throwing such discussions under the rug does not strike me as a solution.

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June 23rd, 2011, 10:19 am

 
 

143. Syrian Commando said:

You’re either in denial (Syria is united) EHSANI2, or quite naive.

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June 23rd, 2011, 10:46 am

 

144. Aboud said:

Are people on this forum aware of the very stringent foreign currency controls imposed by the government in the last few weeks?

One now cannot buy dollars without satisfying a long list of conditions, and even then only in very limited amounts. Even Western Union offices in Syria have been banned from transferring money outside the country, unless the transferee pays in foreign currency.

If people were free to switch currencies as they pleased, the real price of the lira would be above 90 liras to the dollar.

@143 These kinds of comments is why it is impossible to have a dialogue with Baathists. But then what do you expect from a regime whose foreign minister now thinks he lives in a world where Europe doesn’t exist. One of the most bizarre foreign policies in the history of foreign policies.

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June 23rd, 2011, 10:46 am

 

145. arab said:

In my opinion, this is a mere side effect of a sect taking power, I don’t think it’s that bad nor meant to be.

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June 23rd, 2011, 10:46 am

 

146. majedkhaldoon said:

Yazan
You mentioned about examining history,I agree with this completely, would you go back to the origin of Alawi religion,it seems to me that they took root from the period where Tabrani start converting people from the area which we call alawi area, to become Alawite, this area was inhabited by the people who are called Assassin,who has brutal and murderous history, assassinating those who opposed them,a group that originated by Hasan i Sabbah and later by Rashididean Sinan,who (the later) lived in that area.
It is because of this bad image and history that those people were forced to live in a mounainous area, and caused themselves their bad fortune and thus they were ignored, and they lived in ignorance and poverty,they at one time tried to convert to christianity, and fought with the crusader side, only later they were rejected by the crusaders,and during French occupation they supported such occupation till Saleh Al Ali revolted and decided that Syria is one .

I like to know the connection between Assassins and Alawite.Thanks

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June 23rd, 2011, 10:49 am

 

147. Syrian Commando said:

#144

The fact that you call me a Ba’athist is the reason why I’m not even INTENDING to talk to you, liar.

We know full well your sectarian plans to tear Syria apart. We know what you did to Iraq — guess what jerks, we’re going to turn it around and create sectarian wars in YOUR territory. Just wait. Don’t underestimate our reach. There are Syrians everywhere.

>But then what do you expect from a regime whose foreign minister now thinks he lives in a world where Europe doesn’t exist

The fact that you have to simplify his wise words down to your level of stupidity speaks volumes of the worthlessness of your own words.

Anyway, Syria is wise to impose currency controls. In fact, I would make them even stricter and disconnect from the financial world completely. There are elements intending to create bank runs and rumours like ABOALI’s here are part and parcel of this program.

The market is reflexive and the price will reflect people’s faith in a currency. He’s attempting to undermine that faith.

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June 23rd, 2011, 10:52 am

 

148. N.Z. said:

It takes guts and courage to write such an informative piece. This piece confirms what had been known for a while, the Assads were adamant to wipe out Alawites cultural and Syrian history.

The Assads’ wanted us to believe that Syria’s civilization started with them and will end with their downfall, and Syria is secular. Wrong. We are spiritual/religious, non sectarian, what unites us more than anything is our nationalism. We are either tolerant or ignorant, when it comes to his or her faith, belief system.

Many Alawites are respected based on their credentials, being a minority anywhere in the world, you do no want to be treated differently because you are a minority, rather as part and parcel of the social fabric, equally and justly. Statistics are something else.

Our history is filled with heroes, they come from different sects and ethnicity, the common denominator is their Syrian identity, their nationalist and love of the people.

Sectarian tensions will not materialize in Syria. But if this regime is sensitive to such probabilities, it is incumbent to do everything they can to avoid such a situation and not to ignite and promote, as they were trying at the start of the unrest, with no avail.

United, we shall remain.

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June 23rd, 2011, 10:56 am

 

149. Syrian Commando said:

A stratagem of deception: accept a false premise and come up with an amicable conclusion as to hope that all parties take the false premise for granted.

If I made a blog titled “America Comment”, discussing the oligarchy in finance and business made up of Jewish Americans and how to reconcile the sectarian nature of US politics, I would be called an arsonist/racist/anti-semetic semite and what not by the Western/Israeli people on here.

BUT WHEN IT COMES TO SYRIA THE SUBJECT IS FAIR GAME, LOL. What a bunch of lying hypocrites.

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June 23rd, 2011, 11:16 am

 

150. Aboud said:

@146

“In fact, I would make them even stricter and disconnect from the financial world completely.”

*facepalm*

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June 23rd, 2011, 11:19 am

 

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