Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Anti-`Alawite sectarianism and bigotry

The bigotry against `Alawites runs deep: in the Middle East and elsewhere.   In Lebanon (and Syria) bigotry has a class element, and many Sunnis still regard `Alawites with the same contempt that they held the predominantly `Alawite and Kurdish maids that they employed over the decades.   This has nothing to do with the political attitudes to the Asad regime: or it is only relevant in the sense that it increased the bigotry and gave it political legitimization.  And it bothers me that people don't know that some of the bravest opponents of the regime have been `Alawite: the brave and defiant underground party, Communist Action Party, is predominantly `Alawite in membership.  Some of their members (some I knew when it was called the Communist Action League) were subjected to unspeakable torture.  The Lebanese Phalanges and later the Hariri propaganda apparatus disseminated hateful and bigoted literature against `Alawites (the Phalanges really went out during the war, and put out most hateful anti-Muslim and anti-Druze and anti-`Alawite stuff).  Even Shi`ites did not consider `Alawites as legitimate Shi`ites until Musa Sadr (for political reasons) changed that in 1973 when he accepted `Alawites as Shi`ite twelvers (which is historically and theologically fallacious).  So much of the discourse on Syria in the West and East is tinged with sectarianism and bigotry against `Alawites.  There was a report on BBC on Rim Haddad (the propagandist of the regime who bizarrely claimed that Syrians who left for Turkey were merely visiting relatives), and the fact that she was `Alawite was a big part of the story for some reason.  Of course, there are people who are even willing to justify bigotry against `Alawites by referring to the deeds of the regime: just as anti-Semites always justify their bigotry by referring to Jewish deeds (or even to deeds of Israel).  There should be no justification for bigotry.  And like anti-Semites, anti-`Alawite bigots refer to the secretive doctrine of the `Alawite sect: but they had to be secretive over the centuries to preserve the community from persecution.