Freedom of religion in Syria

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The constitution of the Syrian Arab Republic guarantees freedom of religion. Syria has had two constitutions: one passed in 1973, and one in 2012 through a referendum. Opposition groups rejected the referendum; claiming that the vote was rigged.[1]

Syria has come under international condemnation over their anti-Semitic state media, and for sectarianism towards Sunni Muslims.[2] This is a claim that Damascus denies. While secular, Syria does mandate that all students go through religious education of the religion that their parents are/were.

History of the constitutional clauses (1973)[edit]

On March 8, 1963, the Syrian Armed Forces overthrew the government of the French Mandate for Syria in a military coup d'état. After a great deal of struggle between carious groups for power, the Ba'athist party assumed power over Syria. Being opposed to religion in general, the Ba‘athist theoretician Michel Aflaq associated religion with the old corrupt social order, oppression, and exploitation of the weak; seeming to have been influenced by a mixture of radical Hobbesian and Marxist views on religion.[3] The constitution, however, still made it clear that {{cquoteIslamic jurisprudence shall be ‘he main source for legislation.}} [4] Despite this proviso, there were a number of Sunni Muslims who felt that the secularization of the country had gone too far. They pressed for Islam as a state religion, demanding that all laws contrary to Islam should be abrogated. Their beliefs encompassed the understanding that the essential elements of the unity of Syria is the shari’a, which includes laws adequate to organize all aspects of life; at the level of the individual, the family, the nation and the state.[4]
From the founding of modern- day Syria, there were underlying tensions that stemmed from sectarianism between the majority Sunni Muslim bloc and the minority Shias, Alawites, and Christians.

In 1973, a new constitution was drafted after demands form the opposition for stricter Islamic law. The Constitution was adopted by the People’s Council at the end of January 1973 but had no provision to that effect. Viewing the Constitution as the product of an Alawite dominated, secular, Ba‘athist ruling elite, Sunni militants staged a series of riots in February 1973 in conservative and predominantly Sunni cities such as Hamah and Homs. Numerous demonstrators were killed or wounded in clashes between the troops and demonstrators.[5] After these demonstrations took place, the Assad government had the draft charter amended to include a provision that the President of Syria must be Muslim, and that Islamic law is a main source of legislation as a compromise to the Islamists. On March 13, 1973, the new Constitution (which is no longer applicable, having been amended in 2012) went into effect.[6]

The religion of the President of the Republic has to be Islam. Islamic jurisprudence is a main source of legislation.

Paragraph 2 of Article 3 declares that Islamic jurisprudence is "a" source of law, but not "the" absolute source.[7] Bernard Botiveau notes that from a Ba‘athist perspective "Islam was one of the fundamental components of Arabness, but required to be located at the religious, and not the political end."[8] Sunni Shaykh Muhammad al-Habash interprets the provision to mean that it "refers to the situation where there is another source of law. Islam is a main source, but not the unique source. There are other sources for a wide area of law."[9] Scholarly commentator Nael Georges supposes that if there is no Islamic law that regulates a specific circumstance, secular law is applied. However, Georges concludes that there is not strict separation between Islam and the state in its present constitutional setup.[10] Despite this Article in the Constitution, Syria identifies itself as secular, and does not follow Islamic law. In Bashar al-Assad's speech in 2013, he reaffirmed his commitment to keeping Syria a secular state.[11]

Religious and ethnic landscape[edit]

Syria’s eighteen million population is a mosaic of ethnically, culturally, and religiously distinct communities. Ninety percent of the Syrians adhere to an Arab identity;[12][13][14][15][16] another roughly nine percent is Kurdish, Armenian, Circassian, and Turkomans filling out the mix.[17] It is estimated that Sunni Muslims make up seventy-four percent of Syria’s overall population. As such, Sunnis provide the central symbolic and cultural orientation. Of these, a minority are of the Yazidi faith, reducing the core Sunni Arab majority to roughly two-thirds of the populace.[18] Approximately another sixteen percent of the population, while Arab in ethnicity, consists of a few Twelver Shi`a, and various offshoots of Shi‘a IslamAlawite, Druze, and Isma'ilis. The ‘Alawis are by far the largest community in the category of non-Sunni Muslims. Their number is estimated at eleven percent of the overall population. Christians, of various Orthodox and Uniate traditions and the Latin Rite, along with a smattering of Protestants, make up ten percent of the population.[19] Syria’s Arab Jewish community has, to a great extent, disappeared as a result of emigration in the early 1990s.[20] In 1993, it was reported that there were 3,655 individuals of the Jewish faith comprising 584 families distributed throughout the various Syrian governantes.[21]

Religious clauses are constitutionally entrenched[edit]

The Constitution of the Syrian Arab Republic that was passed in 2012 guaranteed religious freedom in Article 3 and Article 33. Article 3 stipulates:

The State shall respect all religions, and ensure the freedom to perform all the rituals that do not prejudice public order; The personal status of religious communities shall be protected and respected.

Despite claiming to be a secular state, the 2012 constitution also states in Article 3 that the President must be a Muslim, and that the majority of laws will based on Islam. Despite being prevalent in the constitution, Syria is seen as a secular state without having its laws based on Islam.

The religion of the President of the Republic is Islam; Islamic jurisprudence shall be a major source of legislation;...

Personal status laws[edit]

In Syria, two kinds of judicial systems exist: a secular and a religious one.[22] Secular courts hear matters of public, civil and criminal law. Religious courts that exercise specialized jurisdiction are divided into shari‘a courts, doctrinal courts, and spiritual courts. They hear personal status law cases only. Shari‘a courts regulate disputes among Syrian Muslims, whereas doctrinal courts are empowered to guarantee the personal status decisions of members of the Druze cult. Spiritual courts can also settle personal status matters for Jewish, Christian and other non-Muslim groups.[23] Decisions of all of the religious courts may be appealed to the canonical and spiritual divisions of the Court of Cassation.[24]

Public endowments[edit]

The second preponderant element of collective religious self-determination under Article 35 of the Syrian Constitution is the ability to manage and control public waqf. Making available the waqf institution is not so much a new innovation of the Syrian state, but all the more a continuation of an ancient practice which has its roots in Byzantine and Sasanian trust law.[25] Mainly the Umayyads and the Ottomans developed what can nowadays be seen as constitutional custom. For historians the waqf institution provided the foundation for much of what is considered Islamic civilization.[26]

Islamic waqf[edit]

In 1947 the Syrian waqf administration, headed by the Prime Minister, was formed.[27] For the first time in Syrian history, the members of the High Council of Awqaf were nominated and not voted for.[28] The law was later reversed, as in the year 1961, and a new statutory source came into effect.[29] Parts of the Council’s initial authority[30] were definitely curtailed in 1965.[31] The competences to nominate leaders and teachers of mosques as well as religious administrators were eventually transferred to the powers of the Syrian Prime Minister in 1966.[32]
In spite of that, notable Sunni Islamic leaders retained their influence in the waqf administration and Ministry in that they were given important offices.[33] Today, the competences of the waqf Ministry encompass, inter alia: the administration of waqf wealth (which includes much of Syria’s property);[34] mufti organization;[35] administration of mosques and shari‘a schools; control of charitable state functions; and the preparation of parliamentary bills.[36] The waqf administration as part of the waqf Ministry,[37] is composed half of secular[38] and half of religious personnel.[9] Its minister is nominated by the President of the Syrian Arab Republic.[39] Since the establishment of the Ministry, waqf ministers have always been adherents of Sunni Islam.[40]

Non-Muslim waqf[edit]

Non-Muslim waqf – those of the Druze, Christians, and Jews – were not included under the French programme and mandate reforms. Non-Muslim waqf continue to be administered by the leaders of the respective religious community, but is overseen by the waqf Ministry.[41] Act No. 31 of 2006 contains an entire body of legal provisions regulating the waqf institution of the Catholic rites.[42] Similar Acts were adopted for all non-Muslim waqf institutions. Many Christian or Jewish founders of pious trusts donated the revenues to their non-Muslim institutions. This kind of public waqf pays for the construction and maintenance of churches, schools, or the salaries of their personnel. Waqf revenues likewise pay for religious orders and other religious constructions and buildings such as cemeteries and tombs. Waqf funds are used for libraries, translation centres, and students’ scholarships. Orphanages, needs of widows, the blind or other handicapped or poor people are all cared for with waqf money.

Adoption, change, and renunciation of religion[edit]

Syrians are free to engage or refrain from engaging in belief or religious observance in any manner other than is prohibited by law. Article 35(1) of the Syrian constitution holds that: "Freedom of faith is guaranteed […]."[43] The provision includes the freedom to retain or chose one’s religion, or to replace the current religion with another, or to adopt atheistic views. There is no official legal punishment under Syrian law for apostasy of Islam, or any other religion. Article 35(2) of the Syrian Constitution stipulates that "the state guarantees the freedom to hold any religious rites […]," as long as "they [the apostates] do not disturb public order." As far as can be established, there is no Syrian case tying apostasy to "disturbing public order." The provision is interpreted by scholarly means in the sense that a person who wishes to convert is free to do so as long as such activity is "made in private."[44] The meaning of the words “in private” in association with the requirement not to “disturb public order” need to be looked at from two varying angles: converting from a specific religion to another religion; and vice versa.

Conversion away "from" an Islamic cult[edit]

A Muslim is disallowed by virtue of Islamic jurisprudence to challenge society.[45] Former Judge Haitham Maleh comments, "any Syrian Muslim is allowed to change his religion provided that conversion is exercised behind closed doors and without affecting neighbours." Judge Maleh reiterates more specifically, "an effect must not even be felt by the closest family members."[46] This can be construed as a condemnation of publicly announcing a change in religion; although no case exists of a person being charged for publicly converting to a different religion. However, an apostate from a religion has no legal right to speak about or act upon his or her new belief. The word “private” means the forum internum of a person. This interpretation approach is also reflected, for instance, in the general inability to change a Muslim’s birth certificate or other personal documents. Moreover, it is a generally accepted practice that there are no religious ceremonies for such personal, highly intimate events.[47] While allowed to personally change beliefs, a Syrian cannot officially change their religion as listed on their birth certificate.[citation needed]
The primary listed reason why Syrian Muslims cannot change their religion is not the passive role of the state, but Syrian society. Father Paulo comments "freedom of religion is virtually unthinkable with regard to the cultural role religion plays in everyday Syrian society."[48] He opines that the "replacing of one’s current religion would not only mean the complete loss of one’s social ties, including one’s own family, friends, and acquaintances, but maybe also professional position."[49] From this perspective there are no legal but a fortiori social sanctions. Islamic scholar Jørgen S. Nielsen says in the same regard "the state obviously discourages it because it simply rocks the boat."[50]
However, the desire to adopt a new religion is a relatively rare phenomenon. Father Paulo believes that "there are only a few such cases."[51]
Some have speculated that the government does not want a large number of its Alawite minority converting to Sunni Islam, although converts to Shia Islam are generally more accepted by the state.[citation needed]

In Syria, the often-cited Hadith Sahih of al-Bukhari is of no direct legal effect.[52] The Hadith demands, Template:CquoteIf someone changes the religion you have to kill him[53] is not incorporated into the Syrian Penal Code of 1949.[54] Judge Maleh argues that the idea of Sahih of al-Bukhari in 9:57 was "to protect the Islamic society from Muslims who change their religion and start to work as enemies against Islam." Shaykh al-Habash muses similarly "maybe Prophet Muhammad mentioned it for someone who changed his religion and began to fight as an enemy against Islam at that moment in history." Al-Habash cannot accept it as tradition that generally applies to all people changing from one religion to another, even in the case of Islam. To him, this tradition is not part of the precious Qur'an, but "is a statement made by Prophet Muhammad and was later narrated by the people."[55] Finally, Shaykh al-Habash emphasizes, "ninety-nine percent of all Syrian Muslims believe that it is forbidden to use force against others."

Conversion "to" Islam[edit]

Conversion to Islam is similarly regarded as private affair with one significant difference. Rule No. 212 of the Personal Status Act of 1953 holds that when a Muslim woman marries a non-Muslim man, Islam is offered to the husband.[56] Moreover, the same rule reads, if he becomes Muslim his change in faith, it is written down in their marriage contract. But if he declines, the judge should keep them apart.[57] In cases other than interfaith relationships, the act of conversion to Islam is not state institutionalized. Moreover, it is prohibited by Islamic fatwa to change religion once a person has converted to Islam.[58] Conversion from a Christian sect to another Christian sect or Islam, while legal, is also problematic. Negative implications are felt on one’s social ties including relations with family, friends and acquaintances. Patriarch Ignatius IV expressed his aversion to community members who adopt the faith of another Christian rite, by stating:

There are new sects coming from Europe and America to Syria. As long as they are of Christian faith they are subject to few limitations. From the Greek-Orthodox point of view we dislike them, because not only are they involved in missionary work, but divide us as a Christian community. We are fully against any division, we want to stay visible. Our belief is that Jesus comes from Bethlehem, and not from London or New York.[59]

Understanding Syrian ideals[edit]

To the Swiss scholar Marcel Stüssi, the inherent difficulty with regard to Syrian religious freedom lies in the circumstance that the Western reader is required to reset some, but not all, knowledge on Western values unless she or he wants to be trapped by specific modes of thinking.[60] While in the West, fairness means that the state protects a more or less autonomous society in which individuals are free to form a variety of allegiances and bonds of solidarity along any lines they choose (leisure, political, religious, cultural, racial, sexual etc.),[61] in the Near East the justice system requires the state to assure that the individual is related to the religious community as part of a larger organism.[62]

Situation of minority groups[edit]

Membership in the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is illegal, as is membership in any "Salafist" organization, a designation in Syrian parlance that denotes Saudi-inspired fundamentalism.[63] The Syrian government and the State Security Court have not defined the exact parameters of what constitutes a Salafist or why it is illegal. Affiliation with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is punishable by death, although in practice the sentence is typically commuted to 12 years imprisonment.[64] While there has not been an official explanation as to why Salafist parties are illegal Syria, nor how this action in constitutional, it is generally seen as the Syrian state attempting to suppress the non- Secular opposition in fear of a Saudi- backed uprising.

All religions, religious orders, political groups, parties, and news organizations must register with the government, which monitors fund raising and requires permits for all religious and non-religious group meetings; with the exception of worship. The registration process is complicated and lengthy, but the government usually allows groups to operate informally while awaiting its response. This was re-affirmed in the 2012 constitution.

There is a de facto separation of religion and state in that the Syrian government generally refrains from involvement in strictly religious matters and religious groups tend not to participate in internal political affairs. However, Syria has increased its support for the practice and study of government-sanctioned, moderate forms of Islam, and Syrian state radio also began broadcasting the dawn and afternoon Muslim prayers, in addition to its traditional broadcast of noon prayers. Syrian state television also broadcasts recitations from the Qur'an in the morning.

Syria permits the use of religious language in public spaces, including the placement of banners bearing religious slogans at the site of prominent public landmarks during religious holidays. However, there have been no recent examples of prominent religious figures addressing government functions.

Syria's government policy officially disavows sectarianism of any kind, although religion can be a key factor in determining career opportunities. For example, Alawites hold dominant positions in the security services and military that are extremely disproportionate to their percentage of the population.[65] Also, Jehovah's Witnesses are discriminated against in the area of employment as their religion is banned as a “politically motivated Zionist organization”.[66]

The April 2007 parliamentary elections for the Syrian Peoples Assembly saw an increase in the number of Islamic clerics elected to the Parliament from one in 2003 to three.

The government promotes Islamic banking. In early 2007 two Islamic banks were allowed to conduct Initial Public Offerings: The Cham Islamic Bank and the Syria International Islamic Bank.[67] In addition, at the Second Islamic Banking Conference held in 2007, Central Bank Governor Adib Maleh recommended that the Ministry of Islamic Trusts encourage Syrians to invest in Islamic banking and pay the zakat (religious tax) through Islamic banks.[citation needed] The Government also licensed the first Islamic insurance company, Al Aqila, in March 2007.[citation needed]

Syria is intolerant of, and suppresses, extremist and conservative forms of Islam. Accordingly, it selects what they believe to be moderate Muslims for religious leadership positions. These people typically have no intention of altering the secular nature of the government. Sheikh Ahmed Baderedin Hassoun, the Grand Mufti of Syria, continued to call on Muslims to stand up to Islamic fundamentalism and has urged leaders of the various religious groups to engage in regular dialogues for mutual understanding.

All schools are officially government-run and non-sectarian, although in practice some schools are run by the Christian and Druze communities. There is mandatory religious instruction in schools for all religious groups, with government-approved teachers and curriculum. Religious instruction is provided on Islam and Christianity only, and courses are divided into separate classes for Muslim and Christian students. Groups that participate in Islamic courses include Sunni, Shi'a, Alawi, Ismaili, Yezidi, and Druze. Although Arabic is the official language in public schools, the government permits the teaching of Armenian, Hebrew, Syriac (Aramaic), and Chaldean in some schools on the basis that these are "liturgical languages." There is no mandatory religious study at the university level.

Religious groups are subject to their respective religious laws for matters dealing with personal status. Syria has not yet passed legislation pertaining to personal status issues for Orthodox Christians.

A new Civil Law for Catholics went into effect in 2006. It contains strict rules on the order of inheritance with regard to the relatives of the deceased, as well as on the jurisdiction of Christian courts. Additionally, there are laws that establish the legal marriage age and prohibit some instances of mixed marriage for Catholics.[68] The law gives the bishop of a diocese and the Christian courts expanded authority to determine the validity of an adoption. The new law also clarifies parental rights and inheritance rules between adopting parents and the adopted child. The Catholic leadership generally received the law positively.

The personal status law on divorce for Muslims in Syria is based on Shari'a religious law, and some of its provisions are interpreted in a manner that discriminates against women.[citation needed]

Syrian law specifically provides for reduced or commuted sentences in "honor crimes", which involve violent assaults by a direct male relative against a female. Section 548 of the Syrian penal code stipulates that a man can be absolved of any killing if he witnesses a direct female relative in the act of adultery. Moreover, a man's sentence for murder will be greatly reduced if he sees a direct female relative in a "suspicious situation" with a member of the opposite sex who is not a relative.

Under Syria's interpretation of Shari'a, the legal standard for men to be granted a divorce is much lower than that for women. Husbands may also claim adultery as grounds for divorce, while wives often face a higher legal standard when presenting the same case. A man can only be found guilty of adultery if the act takes place inside the home. If a wife requests a divorce from her husband, she may be denied alimony and the return of her dowry in some instances.

In the event of divorce, a woman loses the right to custody of her sons when they reach the age of 13, and her daughters when they reach the age of 15, regardless of religion. Women can also lose custody before this age if they remarry, work outside the home, or move outside of the city or country. In such cases the custody of the children reverts to the maternal grandmother until the age of 13 and 15 respectively. After that, custody reverts to the father until the children reach the age of majority.

Inheritance for all citizens except Catholics is based on Shari'a. Accordingly, married women usually are granted half the inheritance share male heirs receive. In all communities, however, male heirs must provide financial support to unmarried female relatives who inherit less. For example, a brother would inherit his and his unmarried sister's share from their parents' estate, and he is obligated to provide for the sister's well-being with that inheritance. If the brother fails to do so, she has the right to sue. Polygamy is legal for Muslim men but is practised only by a minority of them.

The Syrian government generally does not prohibit links between its citizens and co-religionists in other countries or between its citizens and the international hierarchies that govern some religious groups. It does however prohibit contact between the Jewish community and Jews in Israel.

The following holy days are national holidays: Western Christmas, Orthodox and Western Easter, Eid al-Adha, Eid al-Fitr, the Islamic New Year, and the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad.

Restrictions on religious freedom[edit]

In 2007, Syria licensed the so-called Quabasis to hold their female-only Islamic study groups inside of mosques. Until then, they were held in private homes. Some regard the licensing as a cynical attempt by the security services to make it easier to monitor the Quabasis rather than to help facilitate their activities. However, Quabasis groups are still allowed to meet in private residences.[69]

Proselytism is not prohibited by civil law; however, the government discourages it as a potential threat to the relations among religious groups. Nevertheless, foreign missionaries were present; operating discreetly. There were no reported cases of anyone being prosecuted for posing a threat to the relations among religious groups in recent years. Instead, there were several reports that Syria gave the Shi'a favorable treatment and allowed Shi'a missionaries to construct mosques and convert Sunnis to Shiites.[70]

All groups, religious and non-religious, are subject to surveillance and monitoring by government security services. The Government particularly considers militant Islam a threat to the regime and closely follows the practice of its adherents. While the Syrian government allows many mosques to be built, it monitors and controls sermons and often closes mosques between prayers.[69]

In Damascus, a road is being built through the old city to a major Shi'a mosque. To complete the road, the government plans to tear down several predominantly Sunni residential complexes in the old city. The country's Sunni clerics and communities have criticized these plans.

Religious minorities, with the exception of Jews, are represented among the senior officer corps. In keeping with the Syria's secular policy, though, the military does not have a chaplain corps; members of the military do not have direct access to religious or spiritual support; and soldiers are expected not to express their faith overtly during work hours. For example, Muslims are discouraged from praying while on duty.

Syria canceled an Islamic religious program that had been broadcast just before the major weekly prayers were shown on government-run television. On April 20, 2007, the son of the late Grand Mufti, Sheikh Salah Khuftaro, in a speech at the Abu Nur Islamic Center, denounced the Information Minister for this decision.

Abuses of religious freedom[edit]

Before the 2011 revolution, European diplomats and human rights organizations around the world characterized the level of repression against alleged Islamists as consistent throughout the years, with discrimination neither increasing nor decreasing. Some religious leaders insisted they faced increased repression at the hands of the Syrian government, however.

Human rights organizations documented the arrest of at least 30 persons for alleged ties to Islamist groups. The Government rarely furnishes documentation on the number of detained persons. Human rights groups have reported on the amount Syrians who have been arrested or detained for alleged ties to Islamist groups in previous years but whose detention have not been confirmed nor denied by the government.

Since 2007, the Syrian Supreme State Security Court has sentenced at least 22 alleged Islamists to lengthy prison sentences.[71] Human rights groups and diplomats from European embassies estimated that at least several hundred of alleged Islamists remain detained in prisons, security service detention centers, or other secret detention facilities.[citation needed]

Syria continues to hold an unknown number of members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists as political detainees and prisoners. Many alleged Islamists not connected to the Muslim Brotherhood have been charged and convicted for membership in a Salafist organization. Arrests of alleged Islamists and, in some cases, convictions, were motivated primarily by the Syrian government's view of militant Islamists as potential threats to government stability.

Reports of anti-Semitism[edit]

Government-owned-and-controlled media printed anti-Zionistic articles and editorial cartoons depicting demonic images of Jews, stereotypical images of Jews along with Jewish symbols, and comparisons of Israeli leaders and Israel to Hitler and the Nazis. These expressions occurred primarily in the government-owned-and-controlled daily newspaper Tishrin. For instance, on February 4, 2007, Tishrin published an article accusing Jewish leaders of collusion with the Nazi party for the purposes of "inflating" the Holocaust. The article alleged that Jews wanted the Holocaust to justify immigration to "the Promised Land."[citation needed]

Also in July 2006, Syrian Deputy Minister of Religious Endowment, Dr. Muhammad 'Abd Al-Sattar, proclaimed that Jews are cursed on state TV. The Qur'an, he explained, paints the people of Israel in a "sinister and dark way." He proceeded to use the national station to call Jews the "descendants of apes and pigs," claiming that "terms that are closer to animals than humans" are more fit to describe them.[citation needed]

Syria primarily cites tense relations with Israel as the reason for barring Jewish citizens from employment in the civil service or serving in the armed forces, and for exempting them from military service obligations. Jews are the only religious minority group whose passports and identity cards note their religion, and they must obtain the permission of the security services before traveling abroad. Jehovah Witnesses face similar persecution.

Jews also face extra scrutiny from the government when applying for licenses, deeds, or other government papers. The Jewish community is prohibited from sending historical Torahs abroad under a law against exporting any of the country's historical and cultural treasures. This poses a serious problem for the dwindling Jewish community concerned about the preservation of its ancient religious texts.[69]

Improvements and positive developments in respect for religious freedom[edit]

On June 24, 2007, Syrian Grand Mufti Sheikh Ahmed Baderedin Hassoun called on Jews of Syrian origin to return to Syria, claiming that the property and synagogues of Jews who left Syria remained as they were and would be placed at the disposal of their original owners.[69] There have been no noticeable increase of Jews in Syria since, with no change in the discrimination and barring from the work force that those of the Jewish faith.

In 14 March 2007, during a lecture at Damascus University, Syrian Grand Mufti Sheikh Ahmad Baderedin Hassoun called for amending the laws that allow honor killings, which he said violate the Islamic spirit of the law.[72]

Religious freedom since the revolution[edit]

Since the uprising began in Syria, the country has grown increasingly sectarian, with a sharp divide between Shia Muslims and Christians generally supporting the government, and Sunni Muslims generally supporting the Free Syrian Army.[73] The presence of Jews in Syria is almost non-existent, and they have not played a significant role in the revolution.[74]

Societal abuses and discrimination[edit]

There have been occasional reports of minor tensions between religious groups, mainly attributable to economic rivalries rather than religious affiliation.

In March 2007 there were reports of riots in Hassakeh Province between Christians and predominantly Muslim Kurds. There were reports of three deaths. It was unclear whether there was any religious basis to the conflict.

No official statistics were kept on honor crimes, but there were scattered reports of them in the local media. Most prominent was the case of Zahra Ezzo. On January 31, 2007, Ezzo was murdered by her brother after being kidnapped and forced to run away by a friend of the family. The incidence of honor crimes is believed to be considerably higher in rural areas.

Social conventions and religious and theological proscriptions made conversion relatively rare, especially Muslim-to-Christian conversion. In many cases, societal pressure forced such converts to relocate within the country or leave the country to practice their new religion openly.

Banning of head and face coverings[edit]

On 21 July 2010, the government in Damascus ordered the banning of face-covering niqab in public and private universities amid fears of increasing Islamic extremism among young Muslim students; with hundreds of teachers wearing niqabs were transferred out of Syrian schools and universities and reassigned to administrative jobs, where they would not come into contact with students.[75]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/middle-east/referendum-was-rigged-syria-opposition-groups-claim
  2. ^ http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/2010_5/168276.htm
  3. ^ BARRY RUBIN, TRUTH ABOUT SYRIA 37 (Palgrave Macmillan 2007).
  4. ^ a b DEREK HOPWOOD, SYRIA 1945-1986: POLITICS AND SOCIETY 168 (Academic Division of Unwin Hyman 1988).
  5. ^ http://www.dchrs.org/english/File/Books/YearsOfFearBook.pdf
  6. ^ http://www.carim.org/public/legaltexts/SYR00259.pdf
  7. ^ KAMEL KHALI, AL-QANUN AL-DUSTURI WA AL-NUZUM AL-SIYASIYYA [Syrian Constitutional Law and Political System] AT 560 (University of Aleppo Press 1996).
  8. ^ “[...] l’islam était considéré comme l’une des composantes fondamentales de l’arabité mais devait être situé sur un plan religieux et non politique [...]. BERNARD BOTIVEAU, LOI ISLAMIQUE ET DROIT DANS LES SOCIÉTÉS ARABES 236 (Karthala 1993).
  9. ^ a b Interview with Muhammad al-Habash, His Eminence Shaykh Muhammad al-Habash, Member of the Syrian Parliament, in Damascus (Jan. 15, 2007), in MARCEL STÜSSI, MODELS OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM 375 ff. (Lit 2012).
  10. ^ For a similar conclusion Nael Georges, Le droit des minorités: le cas des chrétiens en Orient arabe 207 (Université Grenoble II, Ph.D. dissertation) (on file with University Library 2010).
  11. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGeGHVAjG5c
  12. ^ and mtDNA Genetics
  13. ^ Margaret Nydell (2012-03-23). Understanding Arabs, Fifth Edition: A Contemporary Guide to Arab Society. p. 169. ISBN 9780983955801. 
  14. ^ Michael Haag. The Templars: The History and the Myth - From Solomon's Temple to the Freemasons. p. 58. 
  15. ^ John Joseph (2000). The Modern Assyrians of the Middle East. p. 30. ISBN 9004116419. 
  16. ^ Ellen blum. Crusader Castles and Modern Histories. p. 53. 
  17. ^ The official language, Arabic, is spoken by nearly ninety percent of the population. Kurdish, Armenian, Turkish, and Syriac is spoken by small minority groups. Some French and English is spoken in cities. RICHARD F. NYROP ET AL., AREA HANDBOOK FOR SYRIA (U.S. Government 1971).
  18. ^ FLYNT LEVERETT, INHERITING SYRIA: BASHAR'S TRIAL BY FIRE 2 (Brookings Institution Press 2005).
  19. ^ https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sy.html
  20. ^ Israel reveals immigration of over 1,200 Syrian Jews. Associated Press (18 October 1994)
  21. ^ http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G93/101/09/PDF/G9310109.pdf?OpenElement
  22. ^ Abd al-Rahman al-Sabuni, sharh qanun al-ahwal al-shakhsiyya al-suri, al-zawaj wa atharuh 263 (Interpretation of Syrian Personal Status Laws, Marriage and its Effects) (Volume I, University of Aleppo Press 1994).
  23. ^ Al-marsum al-tashri‘ [Parliamentary Decree] No. 133 of October 8, 1953; also United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Programme on Governance in the Arab Region on Syria, http://www.pogar.org/ (search for “Syria;” then follow “UNDP-POGAR: Arab Countries” hyperlink); also DINA CHARIF FELLER, LA GARDE (HADANAH) EN DROIT MUSULMAN ET DANS LES DROITS ÉGYPTIEN, SYRIEN ET TUNISIEN 36 (Librairie Droz 1996).
  24. ^ Qanun [Act] No. 432 of October 19, 1955.
  25. ^ E.g. Peter C. Hennigan points to the speculation that the concept of waqf may at least partially lie in foreign origins such as Byzantine and Persian institutions. PETER C. HENNIGAN, THE BIRTH OF A LEGAL INSTITUTION: THE FOUNDATION OF THE WAQF IN THIRD-CENTURY A.H. HANAFI LEGAL DISCOURSE 52 ff. (Brill 2003).
  26. ^ PETER C. HENNIGAN, THE BIRTH OF A LEGAL INSTITUTION: THE FOUNDATION OF THE WAQF IN THIRD-CENTURY A.H. HANAFĪ LEGAL DISCOURSE xiii (Brill 2004); moreover, Rani Carolyn Deguilhem-Schoem opines that “[o]ne cannot understand the functioning of Islamic society without considering the major role played by waqf.” Deguilhem-Schoem Randi Carolyn, History of Waqf and Cases Studies from Damascus in Late Ottoman and French Mandatory Times 65 (New York University PhD dissertation) (on file with University Library 1986).
  27. ^ Al-marsum al-tashri‘ [Parliamentary Decree] No. 68 of June 14, 1947.
  28. ^ Al-marsum al-tashri‘ [Parliamentary Decree] No. 127 of June 11, 1949, art. 1.
  29. ^ Id. at No. 204 of December 11, 1961.
  30. ^ Which included, inter alia, the vetting of parliamentary bills, and budgets of the waqf administration, as well as legal disputes, the nomination of leaders and teachers of mosques, and religious administrators. Al-marsum al-tashri‘ [Parliamentary Decree] No. 204 of December 11, 1961, art. 24 quoted as in Al-jarida al-rasmiyya [Official Legal Gazette] Nr. 20, 1961, at 2705 ff.
  31. ^ Al-marsum al-tashri‘ [Parliamentary Decree] No. 29 of January 28, 1965, art. 1.
  32. ^ Id. at No. 24 of April 13, 1966.
  33. ^ Annabelle Böttcher speaks thereby of a “conciliatory gesture” (versöhnliche Geste) of the Assad regime towards the majority Sunni population. ANNABELLE BÖTTCHER, SYRISCHE RELIGIONSPOLITIK UNTER ASAD 22 (Freiburger Beiträge zu Entwicklung und Politik 1998).
  34. ^ Precise figures are undisclosed by the Syrian authorities.
  35. ^ In Syria a mufti is a legal and religious expert (faqih and ‘alim) who has the power to give legally non-binding recommendations (sing. fatwa, pl. fatawa) in matters of Islamic law. Such experts responds in writing to religious and legal queries. A mufti must observe strict equality between the persons who seek his recommendations. Queries which are either sought by a shari‘a judge or private individuals regard the personal status laws of the Muslim community only. In the Arab Republic fatawa are given neither to public authorities nor to individual civil servants, nor do fatawa have direct effect on the Christian communities. Interview with Georges Jabbour, former Member of the Syrian Parliament, in Damascus (Jan. 8, 2007).In Syria a mufti is a legal and religious expert (faqih and ‘alim) who has the power to give legally non-binding recommendations (sing. fatwa, pl. fatawa) in matters of Islamic law. Such experts responds in writing to religious and legal queries. A mufti must observe strict equality between the persons who seek his recommendations. Queries which are either sought by a shari‘a judge or private individuals regard the personal status laws of the Muslim community only. In the Arab Republic fatawa are given neither to public authorities nor to individual civil servants, nor do fatawa have direct effect on the Christian communities. Interview with Georges Jabbour, former Member of the Syrian Parliament, in Damascus (Jan. 8, 2007), in MARCEL STÜSSI, MODELS OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM 375 ff. (Lit 2012).
  36. ^ Al-marsum al-tashri‘ [Parliamentary Decree] No. 204 of December 11, 1961, art. 2.
  37. ^ Id. at art. 5.
  38. ^ What is meant by secular is that they do not have an official religious function.
  39. ^ Al-marsum al-tashri‘ [Parliamentary Decree] No. 204 of December 11, 1961, art. 3.
  40. ^ Al-marsum al-tashri‘ [Parliamentary Decree] No. 68 of June 30, 1947, art. 1; in association with Qanun [Act] No. 411 of June 3, 1957, art. 1, in MARCEL STÜSSI, MODELS OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM 375 ff. (Lit 2012).
  41. ^ Al-marsum al-tashri‘ [Parliamentary Decree] No. 68 of June 30, 1947, art. 1; in association with Qanun [Act] No. 411 of June 3, 1957, art. 1.
  42. ^ Qanun al-ahwal al-shakhsiyya lil-katulik [Personal Status Act of the Catholic Rites] No. 31 of 2006, enforced on Jan. 1, 2007.
  43. ^ AL-DUSTUR AL-SURI [SYRIAN CONST.] ART. 35(1).
  44. ^ Justice Heitham Maleh states “There is national belief that if you want to change your belief there is no problem. This is the same case with drinking alcohol for example. As long as you do it privately anyone is free to do it.” Interview with Haitham Maleh, Former Judge and Attorney at Law, in Damascus (Jan. 24, 2007), in MARCEL STÜSSI, MODELS OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM 375 ff. (Lit 2012).
  45. ^ For a full-fledged analysis of the topic ABDULLAH SAEED & HASSAN SAEED, FREEDOM OF RELIGION, APOSTASY AND ISLAM 87 fF. (Ashgate Publishing Ltd. 2004).
  46. ^ Interview with Haitham Maleh, Former Judge and Attorney at Law, in Damascus (Jan. 24, 2007), in MARCEL STÜSSI, MODELS OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM 375 ff. (Lit 2012).
  47. ^ Interview with Armash Nalbandian, His Excellency Bishop of the Armenian Diocese of Damascus, in Damascus (Nov. 29, 2006), in MARCEL STÜSSI, MODELS OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM 375 ff. (Lit 2012).
  48. ^ Interview with Paolo Dell’Oglio, Jesuite Father, Deir Mar Mousa (Nov. 25 2006), in MARCEL STÜSSI, MODELS OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM 375 ff. (Lit 2012).
  49. ^ Id.
  50. ^ Interview with Jørgen S. Nielsen, Professor of Islamic Studies and Director, Centre for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, University of Birmingham, in Damascus
  51. ^ Interview with Paolo Dell’Oglio, Jesuit Father, Deir Mar Mousa (Nov. 25 2006), in MARCEL STÜSSI, MODELS OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM 375 ff. (Lit 2012).
  52. ^ http://www.catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=31347
  53. ^ Sahih of al-Bukhari, 9:57.
  54. ^ Qanun al-Uqubat [Penal Code] issued by Parliamentary Decree No. 148 of 22 June 1949.
  55. ^ Interview with Muhammad al-Habash, His Eminence Shaykh Muhammad al-Habash, Member of the Syrian Parliament, in Damascus (Jan. 15, 2007).
  56. ^ The Act refers directly to Quadri Pasha’s Article No. 126 quoted as in Qanun al-ahwal al-shakhsiyya [Personal Status Act] of 1949, rule 212.
  57. ^ Id.
  58. ^ Fatwa of Shaykh Ahmad Safar Ghabjouka issued in November 1991. For more details Nael Georges, Le droit des minorités: le cas des chrétiens en Orient arabe 340 (Université Grenoble II, Ph.D. dissertation) (on file with University Library 2010).
  59. ^ Interview with Ignatius IV (Hazim), His Beatitude Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch, in Damascus (Nov. 28, 2006), in MARCEL STÜSSI, MODELS OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM 375 ff. (Lit 2012).
  60. ^ MARCEL STÜSSI, MODELS OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM 375 ff. (Lit 2012).
  61. ^ ANDREW F. MARCH, ISLAM AND LIBERAL CITIZENSHIP: THE SEARCH FOR AN OVERLAPPING CONSENSUS 156 (Oxford University Press 2009).
  62. ^ For more details on the contrast between organic and individualist conceptions JOHN CHARVET & ELISA KACZYNSKA-NAY, THE LIBERAL PROJECT AND HUMAN RIGHTS: THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF A NEW WORLD ORDER 334 FF. (Cambridge University Press 2008).
  63. ^ http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/2/8/23234/World/Region/Muslim-Brotherhood-wants-democratic-Syria-exleader.aspx
  64. ^ http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/csmonitor_historic/access/187223902.html?dids=187223902:187223902&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:AI&date=Jul+22%2C+1980&author=By+a+staff+correspondent+of+The+Christian+Science+Monitor&pub=Christian+Science+Monitor&desc=Syria's+strong+man+flexes+muscles+against+foes+at+home+and+abroad&pqatl=google
  65. ^ http://www.npr.org/2012/06/11/154787305/minority-alawites-like-assad-dominate-in-syria
  66. ^ http://www.refworld.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/rwmain?page=country&category=&publisher=IRBC&type=&coi=syr&rid=&docid=403dd21b10&skip=0
  67. ^ http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=NewsLibrary&p_multi=BBAB&d_place=BBAB&p_theme=newslibrary2&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&p_topdoc=1&p_text_direct-0=11858AF2888C4B20&p_field_direct-0=document_id&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&s_trackval=GooglePM
  68. ^ http://www.asianews.it/news-en/In-an-increasingly-difficult-context,-Catholics-drop-in-number-in-Mideast,-says-Mgr-Lajolo-6194.html
  69. ^ a b c d http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/2007/90221.htm
  70. ^ http://www.currenttrends.org/research/detail/the-sunni-shia-conversion-controversy
  71. ^ http://www.hrw.org/en/node/80950/section/4
  72. ^ http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0214/p07s02-wome.html
  73. ^ http://www.yalibnan.com/2013/07/06/tension-up-at-camps-as-sectarian-politics-rise-in-syria-lebanon/
  74. ^ http://www.timesofisrael.com/thank-god-there-are-almost-no-jews-in-syria-now-says-the-woman-who-rescued-most-of-them-judy-feld-carr/
  75. ^ http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jul/20/syria-bans-niqab-from-universities

Further reading[edit]

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