Thursday, September 25, 2008

Review: Anana In Damascus

NOTE: This post was written a few days ago.

It seems one of our fellow Iraqi bloggers is generating something of a buzz, but in the Arab media for a change. Artist and blogger Sundus Abdilhadi made headlines in Elaph, and later tonight in's website for her controversial painting "Inana in Damascus", which depicts a naked Iraqi woman standing in a crowd outside a nightclub called 'Al-Hirmann' (loose translation, Deprivation), the crowd includes a man in a Gulf attire who appears to be petting her, and also an American soldier who watches nonchalantly.

Now that I've finished reporting, let me have my own analysis of the painting, I'm a total layman in regards to paintings (especially ones in the style of Miss Abdulhadi) and I can never get why so-and-so is supposed to be great, but I'm the sort of the guy who likes to think of every work of art as having more than mere face value, details that reveal themselves with each repeated look or listen.

The painting is based on an Orientalist painting called the "Slave Market" by Jean-Pierre Gerome:

I recounted somewhere in this blog that I used to try to incorporate some Pan-Arab resistance motifs in my imaginary heavy metal shows, I didn't really believe in any of it, and the only reason I did so is because I wanted to be heard and get famous, in another word, I was being exploitative. This painting can be held with a similar accusation, all it did was cast the crowd with the appropriate roles, an American soldier being forced in for good measure, and there you go.

However, a more in-depth view reveals several details that in my opinion clears Abdulhadi of that crime, while Gerome's painting seems to be concerned more with painting just for the sake of painting, in regards to the subject matter, it is completely neutral, the painting does not say anything other than brillianly recreating the incident it is portraying, life is frozen appropreitely in majesty and as always the painting celebrates the female body and lighting is made to reflect that.

Abdulhadi's version is quite different, its main objective is not painting per se, but commentary, heavy depression prevades the entire picture and girl's body is unimportant, what's important is the hypocrisy implied in the addition of the far-away minarets, or the supposed dignity and valor in the attire of the Gulf man, or the leering guy in the background, however the US soldier does sound forced, and America's invovlement should have been incorporated some other way, the impact is made more significant when one looks at the Gerome and realizes the concept of men gathering around a naked woman illustrates the fact that women are still treated more or less as sex-objects 150 years later. Moreover, Abdulhadi's style renders the entire populace in a primitive, inhuman allure that strips humanity away and shows them as the vassals for ideas they're supposed to be.
Having said that, this explicit commentary still hurt the painting as a work of art, I would gladly hang the first in my living room and look at it every other Friday, but this one is just too political and too obvious to be touching in any meaningful way. It is indeed hard to be creative and find a genuinely original portrayal of the devastation of war and the hypocrisy of men, and because there is no high-resolution version of the painting anywhere online, I couldn't really examine it as closely as I wanted. But the added ideas and detail does suggest that Miss Abdulhadi has the potential to surprise us with something in her future attempts. (and for the record, this is my least favorite of her paintings, you should check out her blog for that, the title of her blog looks great)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What Every John and Lucy Should Know About Mithal al-Alusi

by Ibn al-Hawazin Aboosi


I barely have time to settle in my seat at the annoyingly plush Pastiche Café before Sayyid Hayder al-Khoei, taking a puff from his peppermint-orange nargeela, asks me concernedly whether I have seen the bravura in the Iraqi parliament-of-sorts concerning al-Alusi's visit to Israel. I'm sure all of you have heard the long and short of Al-Alusi's sin, for the hermits on the moon it suffices to say that Mr. Alusi made a stop at Jewtown, came back to Muslms-R-Us and got an expected upheaval culminating in a revocation of diplomatic immunity.

It is pretty amazing that there still exists a person in Iraq such as al-Alusi, who can have the admiration of such sectarian-ly disparate people such as me and Mr. al-Khoei, if we were to play strictly by the rules of modern-day new-fangled democratic Iraq™, then I hail from the devoutly Saddamist Adhamiya, he the grandson of a late Shi'i World Leader ; we have every reason to poison each other's nargeelas while smiling smugly for the cameras, and even though I could be described as something of a new convert to irreligiousness, Sayyid Haider is very conservative [and married, at 20! good luck!] granted, both of us are decidedly secular, and pretty much share a similar view regarding almost everything political ; However, I have seen many supposedly levelheaded people who eventually went with the tide and embraced the sectarian identity they felt they had to choose, too many, in fact, which caused the current confessional parliament to be installed in place. I myself have made that mistake and voted for the Sunni 618 bloc back in 2005, if you remember correctly, I was too afraid and felt nobody is speaking about those horrible Badr murders, except Harith al-Dhari, with such heroes becoming sectarian is eventual, and it's a hard thing to truly shed sectarianism, it took the death of my friends to truly realize its folly.


There are many secular Iraqi politicians in the vein of al-Alusi, but none of them seem to appeal to such a diverse margin of Iraqis as al-Alusi, I do believe it largely has to do with one thing alone: he has guts and showmanship. Al-Alusi blasts Arab dictators with unwavering condemnation and disgust at their despotism and double-standards, he doesn’t hold a thread of reverence for Saddam Hussein, and he never ignores his crimes disrespectfully in the vein of virtually all Sunni politicians. Yet this hostility does not seem to be fueled by racist anti-Arab orientations in the vein of certain Shi'i polemics, but more because of the backwardness of those systems of government. He is straightforward, dashing and explicit. Just look at his party title "The Iraqi Ummah Party", the choice of phrase is significant because nobody dares to voice the view that Iraq as a 'nation' (Ummah) by itself in such a flamboyant manner, basically, no Arab country ever uses the phrase 'Ummah' except when it describes the Arab Nation, the Arab countries are mere 'republics' or 'states', parts of the whole, and this is yet another substantial portion of al-Alusi's maxims, the underlying suggestion in his party's title is that Iraqi Ummah is something quite separate from the Arabic Ummah, an uneasy thing to sell (other examples include Phoenician Lebanon and Pharaonic Egypt). But what sets al-Alusi's Ataturkian ambitions aside is that he doesn't seem to have much stock to invest in all those theories that attempt to link Sumerians to modern-day Iraqi Arabs, which often has very hostile anti-Arab connotations, again , al-Alusi seem to be driven in that direction out of practicality ; Skipping questions regarding the validity of an "Iraqi identity", al-Alusi embraces it unquestioningly and by embracing Iraq as the foremost homeland, he seeks to follow a program that can successfully reflect the desires of the entire spectrum of "Iraqis", bypassing Sunni and Shi'i identification and for the first time truly treating everyone equally ; it doesn't take a while to figure out that undertaking the mission of building a truly stable Iraqi identity where religion occupies second place is not necessarily in the interest of the tyrannical Sunni Arab countries that surround it, who have helped fuel the sectarian war alongside Shi'i Iran, all sides would not benefit from a strong non-aligned Iraq rising from the ashes. Therefore, Al-Alusi's only reasonable partner is the West. His unnecessary showmanship in visiting Israel publicly seems to solely convey this explicit fuck-you approach to Pan-Arabism and Pan-Sectarianism, he says this to Iraqis: I am of a different breed.


This approach is appealing, while I identify as an Arab, and have nothing personal against fellow Arabs, but the interference of Arabs in Iraq has always been misguided and negative, completely oblivious to what Iraqis want, and is as harmful as Iranian interference.

This Mithal al-Alusi stint led me thinking a lot about the proper position and identity we must have, between Iraq, the Arabs, Palestine and America. Until very recently, I had a soft spot for Arab Unity, but on thinking it over I've come to the conclusion that its best we worry about forming an Iraqi identity first before pondering ideas of what is in the interest of "Arabs". The idea of childishly integrating vast countries together with vastly different economic, cultural and religious values seems only to have much weight in sentimentality.

On the other hand, a shot at an "Iraqi" identity, however muddled and baseless historically that identity is, is quite possible. Indeed, it is known that Iraqi Shia and Palestinians share a mutual hatred, but are Sunni Iraqis any more loving of other Sunni countries? I've never met an Iraqi Sunni who identified with non-Iraqi Arabs more than he identified with his Shi'i countrymen. If anything, the similarities between Sunni and Shi'i Iraqis suggest it to be more doable than, say, a union between Sunni Jordan and Sunni Palestine.


Hardcore Baathist launched a petition to 'revoke the Iraqi nationality from Dirtbag Mithal', out of 5226 readers, only 432 have signed.

SIIC's unofficial news agency was naturally scathing. Publishing opinion pieces and articles against al-Alusi.

Saudi-based liberal website Elaph has an interesting 4-part eyewitness account that praises al-Alusi's overall goals but includes several important criticisms, describing him as willing to impose democracy and the concept of an "Iraqi nation" by force and describing the people around him as opportunists. Most commentators favored al-Alusi.

Commentators on's news item regarding al-Alusi's stunt was overwhelmingly and surprisingly positive, predictably, the ones who were negative were either Arabs or ultra-fundies. Maybe there is hope after all.

Angry Arab provides a great rude example of why Arabs could be harmful to Iraq, he predictably looks at Mithal al-Alusi, who he probably has never heard of before, through the prism of Palestine ; This one-dimension worldview can wear off quicker than you might imagine, what might be good for Palestine doesn't necessarily translate to be good for Iraq, and after all, the Iraqi problem is by and large unrelated to the actions of Western entities, which is why Arabs are having a hard time tackling it, all America did is bring it all to the surface.

Secular website launched an uncharacteristically mouth-frothing campaign against the parliament, descending to a comedic vocabulary so typical of Baathists as personified by al-Sahaf. There were some anti-Alusi articles thrown in for good measure, but there is a great article contributed by German-based Iraqi politician Dhiaa al-Shakarchi, a former Dawa member who resigned from the party having seen the horrors of [political] Islamism, he is currently a secular Muslim, and he manages to sum up my feelings very eloquently:

Yes, perhaps I do not interact with the Palestinian cause as an Islamic cause, I view it as Palestinian first, humanitarian second, and perhaps Arab third.

Yet as we sympathize with the rights of the Palestinian people, we condemn as Iraqis the inexplicable support by radical Arab and Islamist Palestinian movements and its popular bases to the enemies and murderers of the Iraqi people, starting from Saddam and his sons and ending with al-Zarqawi and al-Qaeda. We also condemn the Iranian interference in the Iraqi, Palestinian and Lebanese affairs, and we would not exaggerate should we say that Iran played the most corrosive part in Iraq's destruction, but that does not make other regional and international sides innocent. The foremost international partner would naturally involve condemning fatal US mistakes in Iraq, but I would not look at America as an enemy, in fact I support a friendship that maintains the sovereignty and security of Iraq's democratic project to protect it against Iran's corrosive action and the radicalized factions of Islamists and those with a sectarian political agenda, but if it is clear to us that there is an American conspiracy against the aspirations of Iraqi people then we must surely adopt an entirely different position, albeit balancing the strength of our national convictions with political realities at hand.

As of Mithal al-Alusi's recent visit to Israel, one must say that the man managed, through unparalleled courage to present through his media appearances a political discourse with an effective and distinct national flavor, especially with his equally damning condemnations of Sunni sectarian terrorists and Shii sectarian agents. However, this does not mean we support his visit to Israel, an action that is surely a horrible political mistake committed without the slightest reasonable justification.

Perhaps the man had certain calculations we are unaware of, and it is not unlikely that the predictable uproar swings from the political fall from grace everyone is betting on to a sizable popular base in his favor, especially if we take into consideration that the figures who attacked al-Alusi in parliament are disliked by a great majority of Iraqis, as they are the figureheads of political powers that seek to establish sectarian politics and are often accused of being complicit with Iran. Thus many Iraqis who reject those political powers might support al-Alusi against those forces as an exhibition of their disappointment. publishes the results of a poll that might confirm some of the things al-Shakarchi talked about:

Do you think parliament must remove immunity from any Iraqi MP that visited or shook hands with an Israeli official? (No 76%, Yes 24%)

Should Iraq fight Israel in place of Arabs and Palestinians? (No 90% Yes 10%)

There are three Facebook groups in support of al-Alusi, the largest has members in the 500+ 750 apx, which is impressive considering Iraqis slow apprecation of Facebook. (it was 500 two days ago)


One can definitely be skeptical about al-Alusi, in the end of the day one can say so much without really having to do something. And the enormity of realizing that identifying with Iraq might necessitate an isolationist policy is not something easy to accomplish. However, taken at face value, al-Alusi seems to promise something, he is undertaking a great risk with what he's doing and he has already lost two sons in the process. He has my full support.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Karfan's View Of A Sectarian Syria

As a supplemental footnote to my previous post, here is a sharp entry from the classic blog Syria Exposed, easily the funniest blog of all-time, it discusses the self-imposed conversion of Alawites from a cryptic sect into a personality cult for al-Assad that depends solely on him for survival, some of the passages match word-for-word the testimony of the Alawite woman in the report I linked to in the previous post, several comparisons with the Sunnis status in Iraq warrants mention, but they have grown too long to be added as a comment and I'll give them a post of their own after this one.

A significant theme in Karfan's classic 13-posts blog is sectarainism,Other highly recommended Karfan posts that discuss sectarainism frankly and openly include the posts "Myth No. 5: We Will Slaughter Each Other" and "Myth No. 2 : We Have An Identity"

Myth No. 6 : Alawie Is Still A Religious Sect

It might be very surprising for many people to know that the Alawie (the sect that the ruling thugs belong to) is the most oppressed religion in Syria!! Of course in terms of ideology not in terms of the status of the people belonging to it.

"King Lion the 1st" long ago realized how much he relies on the support of his sect to stay in power, and realized who much dangerous would be to rely on something that can be easily manipulated such as religion. He then diverted this lurking danger to his rule by imposing an overwhelming Sunnification policy on the very Alawie sect that supported him. This extreme policy took the shape of so many aspects that everybody here knows very well:
Introducing only pure Sunni Islam education to all schools;
Banning any public manifestation or even mentioning of any Alawie religious activities;
Banning and oppressing any Alawie religious organizations or any formation of a unified religious council or a higher religious authority; Many were killed by the great gangster Duba for starting to utter such ideas among people in Tartous and Jableh;
Building Sunni-style mosques in every little Alawie village and encouraging people to perform the pilgrimage through public and private (his late brother's Hadjee Jameel) organizations;
Encouraging the Late Grand Mufti of Syria to brake down any attempt to present the Alawie religion as anything but a bad old mistake which people should renounce and forget.
Releasing the hands of the Sunni clerks to do whatever they whish regarding establishing a clear religious identity to all Sunni youth, and facilitating Sunni Islam educational and media sources (as long as it does not tackles politics and the King’s eternal right to his crown) while banning any sort of similar activities for Alawies and other minor sects. There are in Syria hundreds of Sunni religious schools while there is not a single school that is specialized in teaching not even the history of the Alawie sect.
etcetera etcetera...
"King Lion the 1st" managed even to convince many Alawies, especially young generations, that they are actually just Bad Muslims, someway or another.

"King Lion the 1st" and the rest of the gang around him knew well that this is not going to lead to any real results in term of unifying the Alawie sect with the main stream Sunni Islam. Everybody knows, especially those Alawies who tried very hard to integrate with their Sunni surroundings after moving to the main cities, that they will never be accepted by the Sunnis. There isn't a single Alawie house in Damascus without a story or two on failed experiences in... what you may name: go out of own skin attempts. Alawies are still bad Muslims, the mosques the government built are still deserted, and the number of Alawie-Sunni "mixed marriages" is even much lower than the number of the mixed marriages between Syrians and foreigners. Of course excluding the upper class mixed marriages, where the thugs marry into each other's families for the sole reason of solidifying their rule.

The Sunni-fication attempt did not work simply because it was not meant to work in the first place. While "King Lion the 1st" and his thugs were trumpeting this integration policy, they were at the same time systematically building a culture of separation and segregation between Alawies and Sunnis, and between all sects and ethnic and religious groups in Syria for that matter.
The real reason behind this policy was never integration with Sunnis or establishing an acceptance for the Alawies by the Sunnis. The real reason was to deprive the Alawies from any solid unified religious ideology that might one day pause a fatal danger on the rule of the King. To turn them into meaningless tribes ranked by how much they support the King.

Let Karfan explain this in his simple words: Imagine what the King's position would be if all the Alawies in the Republican Guard, Special Forces, and Security Services (all composed of 95%Up Alawies) told him to go fuck-him-self because an Alawie higher religious authority decided it is not in the sect's best interest to support him anymore? What exactly do you think this regime is hold together by? Baathis? That is the biggest joke that every five year old Syrians knows. Everybody here knows that these forces are the regime real power which prevents any opposition from even pondering on the idea of opposing publicly. The army in general has been long ago marginalized and made weak to have any real effect on the power balance. That was when many army units refused to carry out "King Lion the 1st" 's destruction plans against the Sunnis at the time when the regime and the Muslim Brothers were waging holly wars against each other. Many army officers who refused orders were fired and are still sitting in their houses doing nothing since. But that experience taught the King that he had better rely on very well organized, brain-washed, and loyal smaller units such as the infamous "Sarya Eldefaa" of his brother who eventually carried out the attacks on Hama. Since then, he learned how to balance these power tools by multiplying them into several separate entities: Republican Guard, Special Forces, and many strong Security Services Units. Those units are where the real military power of the regime exists.

Such essential power centers should be kept under the sole control of the King. That is why, unlike the Sunnis or Druuz or Smaeilis, the Alawies were doomed not have a religion in fear that this religion or whoever controls it might be in control of these essential power centers one day.
By erasing all sort of religious identity while making sure that Alawies will not find another one elsewhere, Alawies were simply transformed into a sort of tribes that are unified around one purpose: Keeping the King in Power. A couple of tribes that does not have any real religious conviction or ideology but are hold together by the fear of the others and the fear of revenge by the others for the regimes deeds. A sort of army units which sole purpose is to protect the leader, nothing else.

Meanwhile every one around them keep labeling the regime an "Alawie Regime" and keep throwing all the faults that this regime did on the Alawies shoulders. We will be doomed to carry the burden of the faults of the same people who destroyed our religion and destroyed any religious identity we might have had. The same people who instead of seizing the chance of being on top to establish a real secular society were all would be respected regardless of what they believe in, they encouraged Sunni extreme religious teachings and built a society were you have only two books to read: Ibn Taymeiya, or Michael Aflak.

After this systematic destruction of any unified religious authority, it seems unlikely that Alawies would bring themselves together to get rid of the gang ruling in their name and destroying the future of this country in their name. What makes it even more difficult is the accusations that the other sects keep building: An Alawie Regime, An Alawie Baath etc.. to the end of the list of everything bad+Alawie. Not a single opposition group had come forward to present a vision or an idea of what would be their stance on the thousands of Alawies serving in the Security Services and army. What should Alawies expect if they actually manage to realize that the ruling thugs are going to destroy what is left of the other's trust in them? No one is saying anything about that: Sunnis are vague or just silent at best, and that is what the King exactly whishes for. With no bright future, Alawies are just maintaining the present, no matter how bad it is.

The Alawie sect had suffered hundreds of years of oppression and negligence before, but the biggest harm to it came when one of it's own followers controlled the country! He succeeded in doing what long Sunni oppression and mighty Osman Emperors couldn't do over hundred of years: erasing the Alawie religion and turning its followers into an identity-less supporters of his rule.

One day the King and his gang will go and he will join his uncle "White Knight of Tadmur" in France in his luxurious life style and white suits, like all ousted kings and rulers. And only the Alawie King Lion and his dynasty and thugs will remain in people's memory. People will forget all other great Alawies like Saad Allah Wannous and Nadeem Muhammad, and we will be responsible for all the backwardness of Syria and its society. Alawie will never have the right to build religious schools or demand a secular education, the majority would say: You didn't do that when you were in power, why should we do it for you now? And they will be damn right in saying that.

Alawie, as a religion or sect, no longer exists like all other sects in Syria. But Alawies have one thing in common: they are the ones who keep this regime alive. And according to Karfan there is another thing that is common between us, Alawies: We have no future, at least not one that is worth looking forward to.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Blind Man From Ma'rra أعمى المعرة

هفت الحنيفةُ والنصارى ما اهتدت ويهود حارت والمجوس مضللةْ

إثنان أهل الأرض ، ذو عقل بلا دين، واخر دين لا عقل له

They all err - Moslems, Christians, Jews, and Magians:
Two make Humanity's universal sect:
One man intelligent without religion,
And, one religious without intellect.
- Abu al-Alaa al-Ma'rri

The Baathist Model in Iraq and Syria

This time I stayed in Syria for half a month, unlike the previous 3-day stint two months earlier, which was basically a poor attempt at a booze-and-booty adventure in the vein of hypocritical Middle Eastern men, this trip was like Will Smith, very G-rated, family-oriented and fun. I found it extremely refreshing and got to spend half as much money as the first.

"Syria is a beautiful country." This is the first line Riverbend wrote in her last blogpost, of course, she quickly followed it by: "at least, I think it is." The addition is necessary because Syria is not beautiful in the modernized sense of Western civilization, its streets are dirty, the electricity cuts off an hour everyday, and autocracy assures you of its dominance in every inch of the streets. Riverbend attempts to explain her impression by saying that as an Iraqi she persumes she'd take safety and security as beautiful no matter what, but I feel this analysis to be in error*. 'Amman is significanly more pretty, chic and advanced in services and architecture than Damascus, but, in the words of an Algerian reporter I met last year "it has no soul", Damascus has loads of cultural (old city) historical(Umyyads) and natural soul(Qasiyoon), but most importantly, it resembles pre-war Iraq almost unbelievably.

Which brings us to the main point: the extra time allowed me to ponder a comparison I've tried to make ever since my first trip to Syria, to count the similarities between Baathist Syria and Baathist Iraq.







Flag (Longest Surviving)


29 million - ([this year] – 2003) x 1 million)

19.4 million

Ruling Party

وحدة مرية اشترا كبة

وحدة مرية اشترا كبة

State Constitution

20% Sunni rules 60% Shia, Other minorities favor the 'secular' rule of the minority against the Islamic tendencies of the majority.

10% Alawi rules 74% Sunni, other minorities act the same as Iraq's.


Shii (Imami), Sunni, Kurds, Turkmen, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Armenians, Mandaeans, Yazidis, Shabak.

Sunni, "Shii" Alawi, Shii Imami, Shii Ismaili, Druze, Kurds, Turkmen, Assyrians, Armenians.

Things That Make 9/11 Look Silly

Halabja (3,000) (Sunni Arabs vs Kurds)

91 Uprising (180,000) (Sunni vs Shia)

Anfal (50,000)* (Sunni Arabs vs Kurds)

Hama (25,000) (Shia vs Sunni)

Government Sponsored Edutainment

Abu Gharib Prisons


Claims To Fame

Sumer, Babylon, Nineveh, Wheel, Writing, Saladin.

Oldest City In World, Ebla, ermm...?!?


Baghdad, Capital of Abbasid Caliphate

Damascus, Capital of Umayyad Caliphate

Death Counts are listed at their maximum for both Iraq and Syria, the 91 Uprising figure is from the Iraqi Human Rights Ministry.

The most interesting part of this comparison to me is the sectarian model of government, theoretically, the model is almost identical, both countries have a minority that rules under secular guises a majority it is historically hostile to. But the regime in Syria has been relatively much more cautious and gentle in its treatment of the majority, the reluctant diplomacy of the Syrian regime in comparison to the uncompromising Iraqi brutality is a trait that exhibits itself almost everywhere you look, even in the respective heads of state, as noted by US ambassador April Glaspie. So how could we explain this? Is it just a difference of temperament between Syrians and Iraqis?

Perhaps it plays an effect, but I think an important factor lies in the identity of the dominant minority sect in either country. The orthodox faction, the Sunnis, are 85-90% of the Muslim World, and so when they ruled in Iraq they assumed a supremacy that was historically natural. All the education books (history, and religion) we studied in elementary schools were 100% Sunni, sometimes even implicitly molded to counter Shia arguments (a chapter about the strong relationship between Ali and Umar, for example) The Sunnis stubbornly refused to accept the majority percentage of Shia in Iraq, before Iraq became independent, it was always ruled, except for brief interruptions, by Sunnis. So when push comes to shove with the rise of Shi'i Islamic movements as part of the general religious awakening in the whole Muslim world, the Sunni government found no qualms in entirely suppressing all religious Shia practices. The Shia, historically and religiously attuned to suppression and tyrannical rule, did not act against this ban with the veracity one would expect from a majority oppressed in its own homeland.

and so it is only natural that the Nusayri pseudo-Shia Alawi regime in Syria would manifest its Shia identity in Syria somewhat cautiously. To the Alawis, who are a very small minority who lived in the mountains and are considered extremists by Shia themselves, this moment of rule is historically without precedent. (the magnitude of such an accomplishment can be felt when imagining Saudi Arabia ruled by its minority Shia, or Iran by its minority Sunni) and so, education in Syria remains, as this excellent report shows, traditional, rigid, and entirely Sunni. Sunni worship is accommodated graciously, even after the Muslim Brotherhood Hama revolution and was never really made to feel actively threatened or assaulted full-on, in fact, the report goes so far as to say that Alawis have traded their religion for political power, effectively becoming Orthodox Sunnis, attempting a process of integration in the pan-Arab identity which is closely intertwined with Sunni Islam (read it).But I don't really think that they've abandoned their religion entirely, instead, they are coy in pushing up their own version ; for a 10% minority, they are ubiquitous, pictures of Bashar al-Assad and Hasan Nasrallah together are a no-brainer and are visible everywhere, hell, I even saw pictures of Khomeini and Khamenei together with the words 'Leaders of the Nation' plastered next to a clothes shop, something I haven't ever seen in Iraq. When I went to help the Ba'ath Party neighborhood official who owned the apartment of my relatives install Yahoo Messenger on his computer, the first thing I saw inside his house was a large poster of Nasrallah, at the corner of the street, I encounter a young man with 'Ya Ali' tattoed on his arm, many Iranians walk the streets, Shia books are sold side-by-side next to Sunni ones in the street, Kiosks turn on Shia sermons freely...the references are endless.

The question presents itself, if for some reason America decided to do to Syria what it did for Iraq, would they end up with the same results? Would the minority, supported by an unbreakable relationship with Iran, cause the same havoc the smug, historically confident minority in Iraq did? Or would they turn back to their mountains in acceptance of their historical outcast status vis-a-vis the majority Sunni and forget about it? I don't know, maybe, but it's too costly to find out, and Iraq is the biggest proof of that.


*("to be in error"?!? fuck, I'm getting too scholarly. Here's an extra fuck to balance it out: fuck. That's three fucks, and with the last one it's four, all hail Fred Durst for this lame joke.)