Thursday, March 30, 2006

Syria Rescinds Ban on Religious Lessons in Mosques

Ibrahim Hamidi - the man in Sham - just published an article in al-Hayat explaining that Syrian authorities have set aside the recent decision of the Director of Awqaf in Damascus خالد المعتم Khalid al-Ma`tim, which forbid teaching religion lessons in the mosques and required them to close in between prayer times. The law had also restricted Qu'ran classes to two times a week and cancelled the early morning and evening calls to prayer. This was all highly provocative and caused a backlash. ("Syria Comment" reported on this decision before the international press thanks to a guest writer from Syria.)

As a result the military academy invited the religious authorities of Syria, including Muhammad Habash and the Grand Mufti Hassoun, to a conference on religion. According to Ibrahim, this was the first time that the military establishment in Syria has invited religious figures to common dialogue in the academy since the Baath came to power in 1963.

Habash and others used the occasion to call for establishing religious instruction in the military academy, claiming there was no contradiction between Islam and Arab nationalism and that the two sprung from the same values and reinforced each other. Habash criticized the new party law indirectly by stating that there is no reason to forbid the establishment of religiously based parties. He pointed to the success of Hamas and the resistance in Lebanon as well as religiously based parties in Iraq and Egypt. He suggested that Syria should embrace this new religious awakening within Syria as it does in its foreign policy to strengthen Arabism.

This is a very smart line of argumentation on his part. It traps President Bashar in his own contradictory policy of supporting Islamic parties in neighboring countries while suppressing them at home. This is the same thing that Bayanouni and Khaddam are doing in the external opposition and that the Damascus Declaration folks called for within Syria. The religious establishment in Syria will be able to use the growing strength of the religious opposition to fight for more latitude for its activities at home.

Bashar will have to respond positively to Habash if he wants to neutralize, or at least attenuate, the opposition's call for greater religious freedoms in the political arena. This is what we have seen happen in Egypt, Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East. The state has been steadily dragging the edges of the imperial tent outward in the direction of religious authorities to keep them working within the system rather than joining the opposition. It places the Syrian state in a very awkward position. The military authorities in Syria have always had an inimical relationship to political Islam, as the attempt to ban Islamic instruction demonstrated. Syria can no longer fight Islamism through suppression alone. It must find a way to tame it and bring it over to the state's side. This will be very difficult. The only real way to do this is to inculcate "liberalism" and change the fundamentalist underpinnings of much of the Islamic revival. Liberalism is something that the Baath Party doesn't know much about for it contradicts the very nature of a one party state. If the Baathists adopt real liberalism it will undermine their own raison d'etre.


At 3/30/2006 11:15:00 AM, Blogger Atassi said...

The Baath party in Damascus has been trying to imitated and employ the same tactics to Exploiting Islam as the one used by the disbanded Baath party in Iraq.
Next we may see "Allah Wa Akbbar" on the Syrian Flag!!

At 3/30/2006 06:16:00 PM, Blogger majedkhaldoon said...

Lahoud, president of Lebanon is an honorable man,his opposition are behaving like children,certainly they do not represent the lebanese people, they are behaving stupid, because they know very well that they can not remove Lahoud from presidency ,they are street people not a respected representatives, this will lead them no where,he has 1 1/2 year to finish his term,they have to live with it, Syria will be back in lebanon,Saad Hariri must work to unite Sunnis,be a leader like his father, and stop working like a mafia heir.

At 3/30/2006 09:24:00 PM, Blogger norman said...

The problem with religous parties is not religous people belong to these parties but that their platforms are meant to exclude people from other religins,it is OK to have ethnic and religous association like in the US trying to advance their agendas but in the US minority rights are protected by the constitution and that is what Syria needs ,the problem in Syria is that people will vote for the religon of the candidate not how much he knows and what he will do when he is elected,and that is somthing needs political maturity to correct.

At 3/31/2006 03:28:00 AM, Blogger Syrian Republican Party said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 3/31/2006 12:03:00 PM, Blogger Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

Bozo Lahoud insulted Hamade in front of the cameras and made a fool of himself, you can see the video on my blog. He also said to Ahmed Fatfat 'ra7 fatfatak' (I am going to shred you).

To return to the topic, I can't say that I am really surprised by the state's decision. This government is not secular even if it is not really Islamic either. It is as much secular as the society allows it to be, which is not much in an Arab country.

What did Islamic bigotry brought to other societies ?
-In oil-rich countries, Islamization brought significant pauperization. Country like KSA or Iran who should have been as wealth as Switzerland are much poorer than Brazil.
-In oil poor countries such as Pakistan or Afghanistan, Islamization brought a humanitarian catastrophe.

I think that Syria is in the second category, oil-poor countries.

I once read an Islamist idiot on this blog who wrote that Muslims do not measure the success of the societies with GDP, but with faith. I don't know what's the opinion of most Muslims in Syria on this matter, but he better be right because you can be certain that the MB will not bring economic prosperity to this country.

Lebanon can cope both with an Islamist or secular Syria, but our economy would certainly do better with a prosper secular neighbour (or 2 prosper secular neighbours since we already have one).

At 3/31/2006 12:04:00 PM, Blogger Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 3/31/2006 12:07:00 PM, Blogger Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

BTW, is it only me or the 'Anonymous Syrian' who wrote the previous article has a style that is very similar to Ehsani's.

At 3/31/2006 12:11:00 PM, Blogger Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

"Habash and others used the occasion to call for establishing religious instruction in the military academy, claiming there was no contradiction between Islam and Arab nationalism and that the two sprung from the same values and reinforced each other. "

I always said that, but I can't help noticing that one of the favourite sentence of Muslim clerics seems to be "there's no contradiction between Islam and".


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