Syria: Fearing Sharia rule, Christians back Assad

For all his many faults, Assad doesn’t rule strictly by Sharia. Thus Christians, although they do not have equal rights, live better than they do in Sharia regimes. “Fearing Change, Many Christians in Syria Back Assad,” from the New York Times, September 27:

SAYDNAYA, Syria “” Abu Elias sat beneath the towering stairs leading from the Convent of Our Lady of Saydnaya, a church high up in the mountains outside Damascus, where Christians have worshiped for 1,400 years. “We are all scared of what will come next,” he said, turning to a man seated beside him, Robert, an Iraqi refugee who escaped the sectarian strife in his homeland.

“He fled Iraq and came here,” said Abu Elias, looking at his friend, who arrived just a year earlier. “Soon, we might find ourselves doing the same.”

Syria plunges deeper into unrest by the day. On Tuesday, government troops attacked the rebellious town of Rastan with tanks and machine guns, wounding at least 20 people. With the chaos growing, Christians visiting Saydnaya on a recent Sunday said they feared that a change of power could usher in a tyranny of the Sunni Muslim majority, depriving them of the semblance of protection the Assad family has provided for four decades….

They fear that in the event the president falls, they may be subjected to reprisals at the hands of a conservative Sunni leadership for what it sees as Christian support of the Assad family. They worry that the struggle to dislodge Mr. Assad could turn into a civil war, unleashing sectarian bloodshed in a country where minorities, ethnic and religious, have found a way to coexist for the most part.

The anxiety is so deep that many ignore the opposition’s counterpoint: The government has actually made those divisions worse as part of a strategy to ensure the rule of the Assad family, which itself springs from a Muslim minority, the Alawites.

“I am intrigued by your calls for freedom and for overthrowing the regime,” wrote a Syrian Christian woman on her Facebook page, addressing Christian female protesters. “What does freedom mean? Every one of you does what she wants and is free to say what she wants. Do you think if the regime falls (God forbid) you will gain freedom? Then, each one of you will be locked in her house, lamenting those days.”

The fate of minorities in a region more diverse than many recognize is among the most pressing questions facing an Arab world in turmoil. With its mosaic of Christians and Muslim sects, Syria has posed the question in its starkest terms: Does it take a strongman to protect the community from the more dangerous, more intolerant currents in society?

The plight of Christians in Syria has resonated among religious minorities across the Middle East, many of whom see themselves as facing a shared destiny. In Iraq, the number of Christians has dwindled to insignificance since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, driven away by bloodshed and chauvinism. Christians in Egypt worry about the ascent of Islamists. Christians in Lebanon, representing the largest minority by proportion in the Arab world, worry about their own future, in a country where they emerged as the distinct losers of a 15-year civil war.

This month, Lebanon’s Maronite Catholic patriarch urged Maronites, the largest community of Christians in the country, to offer Mr. Assad another chance and to give him enough time to carry out a long list of reforms that he has promised but never enacted.

The comments by the patriarch, Bishara Boutros al-Rai, prompted a heated debate in Lebanon, which lived under Syrian hegemony for 29 years. A prominent Syrian (and Christian) opposition figure offered a rebuttal from Damascus. But Patriarch Rai, who described Mr. Assad as “a poor man who cannot work miracles,” defended his remarks, warning that the fall of the government in Syria threatened Christians across the Middle East.

“We endured the rule of the Syrian regime. I have not forgotten that,” Patriarch Rai said. “We do not stand by the regime, but we fear the transition that could follow. We must defend the Christian community. We, too, must resist.”…

But while the promise of the Arab revolts is a new order, shorn of repression and inequality, worries linger that Islamists, the single most organized force in the region, will gain greater influence and that societies will become more conservative and perhaps intolerant.

Note how the New York Times calls pro-Sharia Islamic supremacists “conservatives,” and those who oppose them “conservatives.”

“Fear is spreading among us and anyone who is different,” said Abu Elias, as he greeted worshipers walking the hundreds of stone steps worn smooth over the centuries. “Today, we are here. Tomorrow, who knows where we will be?”

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  1. says

    Wow. Of all the newspapers, the New York Times.

    I always despair as to how ignorant the Western World is of the plight of Christians.

    It’s a long way to go, but judging from your lack of critique Robert (apart from the usual “conservative” nonesense the newspapers throw around), I see you share my limited joy in this article.

  2. says

    Complicated situation. Russia backs Syria and is protecting Cyprus drill sites. Turkey is angered. Christians are worried about Sharia in Syria and Kurds reject Erdogan’s attacks in Iraq. Iran even killed 180 Kurdish rebels in the last few weeks. Israel may in fact be involved with backing Assad in exchange for his leaving the Iranian alliance. France may be playing a role too. In short, it is hard to tell how this is going to play out with Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Israel, Cyprus, Lebanon are all involved in a complex dance with extremely dangerous consequences.

    Note: comments are not intended to condone violence or hatred towards Muslims.

  3. says

    Syria’s Ba’ath party – more or less similar to Saddam’s Ba’ath party – and, with all its faults, much more secular and tolerant than any more Muslim places around it… another reason for why the Iraq war was so misguided?

  4. says

    The west must support Assad against the even more barbaric Muslim brotherhood.

    No Muslim ruler can rule a Muslim country unless he is ruthless with the opposition. Such is the nature of Islam, which is a religion that suffers from the Narcissistic Personality Disorder of its founder Muhammad.

    People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder according to the American Psychiatric Association:

    • Have a grandiose sense of self-importance and need for admiration

    • Are preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success and power

    • Have unreasonable expectations of especially favourable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations

    • Take advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends and lack empathy

    • They are envious of others or believe that others are envious of him or her

    • Show arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes

    Muhammad suffered from this Psychiatric Disorder and modelled Allah after himself.

    Many Muslims then model themselves after this obnoxious type of personality and show this obnoxious and criminal behaviour themselves.

  5. says

    Of course – and that is why the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ will deliver nothing but the hatred and evil of medieval sharia to all those countries – and the West has backed it!
    How badly we need to develop alternative fuels – our greed for oil and profits is showing just how low we will stoop, just how little we care about freedom, democracy and justice. Yes, the former, and some present, regimes are/were far from just or fair – but look what replaces them – The Shah in Iran, Sadam in Iraq, etc – are those places really better now?

  6. says

    The Jews of Syria were driven out.

    Now the Muslims are preparing to drive out – or kill – the Christians.

    And it won’t stop there, with Syria. Or Egypt. Islam’s goal is to destroy or enslave everybody who isn’t a Muslims, eliminate pretty much everything good and beautiful that humanity has ever produced (there are so many, many treasures for them to smash to atoms…do they lie awake at night dreaming frantic dreams of burning and smashing their way through Asia, the Pacific, the Americas, Europe…? – and turn the entire planet into a ghastly blend of what Afghanistan, Somalia, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are, right now.

    Nothing but – as John Quincy Adams put it – ‘desolation and delusion’.

  7. says

    It really is just a matter of time before Assad is overthrown.

    Assad doesn’t have a doctrinal basis for his government, the Islamists do.

    As long as Syria’s majority is Sunni Muslim, Assad’s days are numbered.

    Once the Islamists begin to push for Sharia on Islamic grounds, there’s just no way to counter that. Once they begin, you’ll see Egypt and co.’s (not to mention Syrian) Islamic fanatics demonstrating on the streets for his head.

  8. says

    “… Does it take a strongman to protect the community from the more dangerous, more intolerant currents in society? …”

    Who are these ‘more intolerant currents in society’? Whoops. Devout muslims.

    Pure Islam is incompatible with tolerance. Pure Islam does not allow reform or interpretation or free will. Anything other than Pure Islam is heresy.

    So much for moderates.

  9. says

    It would be better to give these Christians the help they need to remain alive. If they want to leave and relocate we should help them do that. We should ask them to become Americans, and live here in America. These people could help our legislators better understand Islam, jihad, Sharia Law, and so much more.

    The way it is now our legislators must trust what Muslims tell them. I’d suspect there is a great deal of bias in those teachings. Seriously our legislators are committing treason and they don’t even know it because they are so filled with bias knowledge concerning Islam.

  10. says

    And this administration too for blindly supporting every so-called “democratic revolution” in the Middle East.

    Of course, it’s funny to note how the administration has remained absolutely silent on Syria.

    Must be the oil. Or not, considering how stupid we were not to negotiate for some of that black gold from the Libyan Al Qaeda terrorists, oops, I mean “McCain’s heroes”. Or how we’re paying for Iraq to rebuild itself – even though her sands are drenched with oil.

    Ohhh, the lovely idiocy of modern intellectualism and it’s never-ending absurd effects on governmental policy.

    Maybe we could just wish it away as Phenomena, like Kant would.

  11. says


    And don’t forget

    Egypt and the independent Emirate of Sinai,
    with dependencies in the Nile valley and Horn of Africa,
    where stomachs growl,
    and Somaliland is declared really just another part of Somalia;

    Greece, where reserves have been called up,
    and Israeli aircraft are being staged
    (but a long ways from Cyprus….);

    Armenia, Nagorno Karabakh, and Azerbaijan,
    where Armenia is not concerned about sale of S-300s to Azerbaijan (,
    but Russia is concerned about the U.S.:
    “I would like Americans to stop being co-sponsors of peaceful process” (
    [French fingers in the pie are always welcome, it seems];

    Jordan, where even his mom now hates the king,
    and he’s forced to bait Jews and Americans (how novel),
    except when he’s promising reforms he can’t afford;

    and the Balkans, where Kosovo Barricades grow while UN fiddles
    and 11 different intelligence services are know watching wahhabis

    I hope everyone’s keeping their booger hooks off the bang switch.

  12. says

    @exiled Ashuri

    To keep the NYT’s inanities in perspective,
    it helps to remember that CIA missed the 1979 revolution in Iran —
    in its entirety —
    only then to report that Khomeini was likely to be a fine democratic leader
    (this Ayatollah guy is pretty much secular, as Clapper might say).