I wrote this article in response to the many comments and remarks, I have been hearing from those sympathizing or supporting the Syrian Revolution but calling for a religious state in a post Assad Syria, particularly from the rather overzealous Muslims. While I firmly assert everyone is entitled to their own opinion and beliefs, I believe it is counterrevolutionary and premature to be discussing how a religious mandated government should be installed in Syria. Let it be noted, this is not an anti-religion article nor am I here to vilify those who believe in a religious government for a post-Assad Syria. However, we cannot continue to ignore reality, this issue needs light to be shed on. I will list the top reasons why I personally believe that a religious institutionalized government would NOT be a good idea for Syria.
1. Demographics: According to the United States State Department, Syria comprises of 74% Sunni Muslims, 12% Shia’a (Alawites, Twelvers, and Ismailis), 10% Christian and 3% Druze (although they sometimes incorrectly get categorized with Shia’a). Aside from religious demographics, Syria hosts many non-Arabs who are as well contributing members to Syria’s society. Those include but not limited to Kurds, Turkmens, Assyrians, Circassians, and Armenians. An Islamic government might make more sense in a nation like Saudi Arabia, Yemen or Libya, where the Muslim population is well over at least 96%, a typical Sunni of those nations may not have an issue in a country where the majority shares the same religion, values or ideals as him. For Syria’s instance, there is a substantial and significant minority population. Including many Christians and their ancestors which have called Syria their home since the early days of Christianity. In my opinion, I feel every nation in the world has a duty and responsibility protecting ethnic and religious minorities. The minorities deserve to be included into the social framework and government that represents the nation as a whole. When you have a government of a diverse nation representing the interests of a particular ethnic or religious group, it does not promote pluralism or diversity, but rather makes the other groups not feel part of the nation, and may result in sectarian tensions and disunity.2. The Syrian Revolution: The Syrian Revolution itself was not defined as a religious revolution, but a human and political revolution for all Syrians to raise their voice against tyranny and promote freedom and democracy for all citizens. While there are myths saying that minorities in Syria, such as Alawites, Druze, and Christians are not partaking in the revolution, one with even limited knowledge in Syria would know these are bogus claims. Alawites, Druze and Christians are becoming more involved with the Syrian Revolution by the day, because they know this a revolution for all Syrians, not just one particular group. However, the grim truth is, there isn’t enough of the Alawites, Christians, and other minorities joining, there needs to be more numbers. Unfortunately, many of them are buying into the Assad regime propaganda that the Islamists are rising up and wish to turn Syria into an Islamist Taliban style Emirate. We know these claims are nothing more than mere false propaganda, and history will always show that regimes will lie and scare their citizens to gain support for their regimes or actions. The Nazis did it, when they said the Jews were “responsible” for the loss in WW1, as well as the Bush Administration who claimed Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq had connections to 9/11 as well as possession of WMD, which neither of them turned out to not be true. Everyone who supports the Syrian Revolution, should always make sure to make all Syrians feel welcomed and should always refrain from sectarian language. The Syrian Revolution did not establish so much support from Syrians because it promised an Islamic or religious government, it gained support because the revolution became a demand for freedom and democracy for every citizen of Syria, regardless of religion or ethnicity.3. Unity Through a Pluralistic Democratic Society: I firmly believe a secular, democratic government that guarantees freedom of religion, press, expression and speech would be Syria’s best hope in a post-Assad Syria. A society that encourages freedom of choice and makes every Syrian citizen feel a part of their system regardless of their religious choice would ensure equality for everyone. It would be less likely there would be preferential or priority treatment for a certain sect, religion, or ethnic group as opposed if there was a religious government. History shows religious governments have for the most part, tries prioritize it’s own kind, before other citizens or subjects. If Syria has a democratic progressive society, it would promote a marketplace of ideas without fear of repercussion, as opposed to Saudi Arabia or Assad Syria. It should be noted, the new Syrian government should emphasize on the freedoms of all Syrians, by being written in the new constitution, and should ensure checks and balances of the government.
4. “Saudi Arabia does not have a true Islamic government”: Many Muslims who wish to see Syria with an Islamic government use the ”Saudi Arabia does not have a true Islamic government” rhetoric as one of the justifications for their view. Many of those same people, will also add that Saudi Arabia laws do not represent Islamic laws but rather tribal and cultural codes. Which is true, an authentic Islamic government does not call for what Saudi Arabia has. Saudi Arabian laws state women are not allowed to drive, as there is no rule in Islam giving such justification. The belief that your religion or religious laws are correct is entirely up to you, but understand there are a significant population of minorities who do not share the same religious views as you. While you may think your religion and religious laws are perfected, this isn’t a reason to impose on those who do not share the same religious views. It was wrong when the USSR imposed a state wide Atheist nation and suppressed other religions or when the Taliban imposed an extremist Islamic emirate. Islam or an Islamic government is not the problem, in my opinion. Take a look at Umar Ibn Khattab, one of the caliphates of Islam, who established an Islamic empire, credit should be given to him, while he stretched an Islamic empire to great lengths, he promoted freedom of religion, and allowed the Jews to live and practice their religion in Jerusalem. However, in recent times, of those who wish to implement a religious government based on divine law, seems rather to be the interest of a group of conservative religious people, who wish to see the rest of country follow on what they deem to interpret is right or wrong, including their religious and conservative philosophy. While Saudi Arabia may follow cultural norms more so than religious code, who is to say that Syria is immune to that, if it were to become a religious nation. No one wakes up in the morning becoming a fundamentalist, it begins with a combination of ignorance and conservatism, and if your nation is only promoting one specific view of religion mixed with ignorance and your conservative philosophy, we could be looking at disastrous effects.
5. Secularism is not anti-religion:
You can be Atheist or be a very religious Muslim, Christian or Jew and still hold secular views for a government. As I mentioned earlier in this article, an Islamic government may be ideal or practical for a nation with a population over 95 percent Muslim. There would not be as much disagreement because the majority of the population would have a common ground, which would be religion. However, for Syria’s diverse case, secularism, may be the best solution. In Syria’s case, religion is best implemented in your house, church or mosque, not at the decree of the government. There needs to be clear boundaries of separation of church and state. Secularism will ensure everyone will be able to practice their religion freely without repercussion and can make Syrians feel confident that their government will not just benefit one specific group and their views. We can all learn something from the Founding Fathers of America, The Framers of the Constitution of America, ensured that America would not promote nor subsidize one particular religion, there is a distinct separation between church and state. This is one of the configurations that makes the United States so beautiful, we promote diversity and multiculturalism. Imagine if America was a “Christian state”, passing only laws that would benefit or appease only Christians, how would the Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Atheists and Agnostics feel about America, how would they feel being part of that system and nation? My point exactly is, when you have a diverse nation in the Middle East such as Lebanon or Syria, the best interest of the nation, isn’t necessarily your religious views, practices or customs but rather what is better for the nation as a whole.Solution for Syria: In my speculation, what I think would be a solution for Syria, is a secular, equitable, and democratic nation. The government should encourage all ethnic and religious groups to be involved in the process of developing and progressing Syria. To no longer look at their neighbor as a Christian, Sunni, Alawite, Druze or Kurd, but rather as another Syrian. A government that will recognize all ethnic and religious groups, and ensure everyone of these groups, that no person will ever be persecuted for his religious beliefs, ethnicity, gender or political views. A nation that guarantees all citizens are equal under the law, and no specific person will gain preferential treatment based on his ethnic or religious group. In the end, I do not make the decisions for Syria, these are just my opinions, and the Syrian people as a whole and democratically need to choose their future. I support their desire for the human right of freedom and democracy. The Assad regime is an obstacle for freedom, progress and human rights. Syria will be free.