Secular confusions – What is the meaning of the Syrian regime’s often-cited “secularism”? [Comment]

The Syrian government is routinely termed ‘secular’ in general media outlets, yet there is generally a very deceptive understanding of what this ‘secular’ nature of the regime entails. The Alawite community is generally distinct amongst Syria’s confessional groups for being markedly non-religious (ironically in fact many mainstream Shia used to see it as almost heretical). The regime in a sense reflects that and is ‘secular’ in the sense that is simply ”non-religious”. However the regime is also simultaneously *sectarian* in the sense that it is overwhelmingly sect-oriented in policy, base and outlook; and indeed this is why Christians have suffered much more than the Alawites in this war. The use of the term ‘secular’ therefore in this context is a misnomer of sorts; in other words, contrary to the implications embedded within the phrase ‘the Syrian regime is secular’, Christians still consider themselves to be ruled over by an alien (unrepresentative) sect overlord.

In a sense therefore, the question to many of them is ‘which sect to rule over us is the lesser evil’, and in such a question this is indeed why Syrian Christians were divided for a long time on the question of the revolution (the rise of ISIS in particular has probably since caused a general shift in favour of Assad). People forget that for possibly the first 2-3 years of the revolution the majority of Christians tended to be neutral (despite all the textbook Middle Eastern postcolonial nationalist-state propaganda about the danger of Islamists, a tactic which has ultimately worked, in Syria as in Egypt), and indeed there were many Syrian Christians in both the political and military oppositions. The fact this was possible was not only because being ‘secular’ (or rather ‘non-Islamic’) alone was not enough to buy their loyalty, but also because to many such folk they understood full well that the regime was not a ‘national’ or ‘pluralist’ party, but merely a choice of overlord, in this case non-religious but highly tribal sect. This is why even amongst supporters and even fighters of the Syrian regime, they often make clear that their preference for the regime is a pragmatic preference, not a foregone conclusion, and why this has routinely caused problems with the regime.

See more:

Christians curse Assad after airforce attacks Christian neighbourhood:

The reality of Christians under Al-Assad’s rule:

Christian Batallion Declaration of War Against Assad:

Assad’s Forces Desecrating Christian Sanctities while the Revolutionists Honor it:

SNN | Syria | Idlib | Christian Family’s Home Destroyed by Assad | Apr 5, 2013:

Syria – Assad Kills Christian Kid – Mother Curses Dictator 11-26-11 Sari Al Saoud – Bayada:

Collateral Damage? 63 Churches Hit in Syrian Civil War:

Assad Slaughtering Syrian Christians:

Syria: Christians take up arms for first time:


4 thoughts on “Secular confusions – What is the meaning of the Syrian regime’s often-cited “secularism”? [Comment]

  1. Pingback: ‘Not all Muslims are the same, but all political Muslims are the same': On the Demonisation of Muslim self-expression & On ‘intuitive’ headline deduction | The Eternal Spring

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