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Syria (BBC/Reuters)


A few weeks ago, I attempted to publish a post on the Syrian Civil War. I was at a bit of a loss, but one of our colleagues suggested helpful reading. I thank him sincerely.

The link below leads to a brief account of the war in Syria, produced by the BBC. It is not as fresh an account as I would like it to be, but it is a concise and, I believe, accurate account.


A Literal vs a Liberal Interpretation

Canada has been welcoming refugees from Syria. However, the Civil War in Syria is part of a larger problem and it has multiple origins, not all of which constitute interference and intervention on the part of the West. Much of this problem is endemic as many of these countries are autocracies where law is faith and faith is law. It’s called the Sharia law and it may be applied to oppress the innocent and the powerless who should be protected under the terms of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For instance, it can be extremely useful to dictators as well as terrorist organizations. They can destroy lives with a clear conscience by choosing a literal, not to say distorted, interpretation of Sharia law.

That is how countries in the Midde East differ from one another. Some countries choose a liberal interpretation of Sharia law. Some don’t. If the power of a leader is threatened, a literal reading of Sharia law may save him. He clamps down. In other words, the countries of the Middle East are autocracies buttressed by a legal system that is also a religion and, in certain countries, such as Saudi Arabia, empowered by money. Petrolium is a product other countries need.

Let’s take a closer look.


 A Stallion, painting by Habibalah of Save (active ca. 1590-1610) Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY


Lady Holding a Flower, painting by Muhammadi of Herat (active Qazvin, c. 1570-1578; Herat, c. 1578-87) Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

(for further information, please click on the titles below)
The Stallion, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Portrait of a Lady Holding a Flower, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Arab Spring

  • The Islamic Revolution (late 1970s-  early 1980s)
  • The Arab Spring (2010)

The Arab Spring is our starting-point. The Arab Spring was a series of uprisings that started on 18 December 2010 in Tunisia, with the Tunisian Revolution. Muslims attacked autocracy much as it was attacked at the time of the Islamic Revolution (late 1970s early 1980s). But unlike the Islamic Revolution, which saw the demise of the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the Arab Spring did not invite the atavistic Islamism that has led to the growth of Isil/Daesh and the frenzied use of Sharia law in Saudi Arabia.

On the contrary, the Arab Spring invited a more liberal interpretation of Islam’s sacred texts. Religious texts are open to interpretation. They demand exegesis which is “a critical explanation or interpretation of a text, particularly a religious text.” (See Exegesis, Wikipedia.) The response to the Arab Spring was not “a critical explanation or interpretation of a text,” the Qur’an and the Hadith, but a stricter interpretation of a text.

Justice, real justice, can be served without beheadings, mutilation, torture and wrongful detention. On 21 August 2013, Bashar al-Assad allegedly ordered the use of a chemical weapon, sarin, that killed hundreds of innocent Syrians and, among them, many children. The victims may have been Sunni Muslims, but although he is an Alawite Shiite, Assad is westernized and he is married to the British-born daughter of Sunni Muslims whom he met when he was studying ophthalmology in London.

His reaction was not that of a God-loving Alawite Shia Muslim, but that of a despot. Assad dug in his heels to protect his position as President of Syria. He could have introduced some measure of democracy, but he chose otherwise and he seems to have relinquished part of Syria to the so-called Islamic State, or was it taken from him?

Members of Daesh/Isil behead, mutilate, stone to death, burn people alive, drown people alive. They crucify, torture, enslave, rape, &c, on what is still Syrian soil. How can the people of Syria survive wedged between attacks from rebel factions and raids by Daesh? Allah does not approve.

Sharia Law

  • Raif Badawi.
  • Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr

Consequently, although it may seem like a pious observance of Islam’s laws, the imprisonment of Raif Badawi and the execution in early January 2016 of Sheik Nimr al-Nimr and 46 other detainees, was not altogether deference to a prophet. King Salman of Saudi Arabia, a Whahhabi Sunni Muslim, was protecting his absolute monarchy and to do so, he put Sharia law into his own service: to rule unopposed. Raif Badawi, a Shia Muslim, imprisoned and he may be flogged again because he asked for more liberalism in Saudi Arabia. In fact, Raif Badawi may be executed. He has been moved to an area of the prison in which he is held where detainees await execution. Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was also advocating more tolerance, but loudly.

As I suggested above, sharia law is a gift to dogmatic leaders in the Arab world. Making conflicts look sectarian also benefits our belligerents: Sunnis are battling Shiites and Shiites are battling Sunnis, Islam’s two main branches is very useful. It takes blame away from perpetrators. They keep Sharia law at their fingertips. Sharia law is the mask behind which these tyrants stand.

If one has read Molière’s Tartuffe (1664 to 1669), one knows that Tartuffe’s devotion is a mask he wears to seduce Orgon’s wife, using casuistry. Orgon is the name of the head of the household. All members of Orgon’s family know that Tartuffe is an impostor, but Orgon needs someone who can take sin out of sinning, which is Sharia law‘s main virtue. Tartuffe makes is possible for Orgon to be a tyrant. So does Sharia law.


The debate has been to determine whether the conflicts in the Middle East are secular (wordly) rather than sectarian (religious). In the Middle East, were it possible, separating faith and fate would probably help quell atrocities. But it would have to come from within. As noted above, to a large extent, Sharia law is a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

But it appears we have a new Hitler. 

Hitler invaded other countries and killed 6,000,000 Jews as well as people he looked upon as ‘abnormal’, by his standard. At this point, I find it very difficult not to compare the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis to atrocities perpetrated by Isil/Daesh. Nazism was a cancer and so is Daesh/Isil.

So far, fewer people have died in the conflict in Syria than Jews in Hitler’s death camps, but the life of those who have fled has been taken from them. Various countries are taking in refugees, but refugees have lost their home.

In short, although the West went on Crusades in the Middle East, although Western countries were “protectorates” and partitioned Palestine as if it were theirs to partition, at the centre of crises in the Middle East is a thirst for power and for blood. Lives do not matter. Limbs do not matter, and Allah is a mere tool in the hands of tyrants, which is a sin.

However, it remains our duty to let the countries of the Middle East determine their future, to respect their wish for self-determination as well as their culture, when it does not infringe upon basic human rights, formulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

A new Hitler and rekindled Fascism.

We do have a new Hitler and rekindled fascism: Isil/Daesh, that must be neutralized or eliminated. In an earlier post, I suggested starvation: no weapons, no food &c.  Others probably have better solutions than my humble: don’t give them weapons.

Therefore, allow me to repeat that the Prophet Muhammad’s teaching can be encapsulated in his “mercy to all the creation.”


With my kindest regards to everyone. 


Dance performance by Shahrokh Moshkin-Ghalam, dancer, choreographer, actor in La Comédie-Française
‘Faryad’ from “Dance variations on Persian themes”

© Micheline Walker
10 February 2016