Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Sectarianism, the Regime & the NSF!

If sectarianism is not a problem in our country, why does the charge of “instigating sectarian hatreds” continue to figure so prominently in almost every “legal” case brought against dissidents these days?

In truth, the issue of sectarianism goes to the heart of our dilemma in Syria, and everybody knows it. This is why Khaddam and Bayanouni made a point of directly addressing this issue during their recent press conference. They, in particular, tried to assure the Alawites that the National Salvation Front is not aimed against them, and that, in fact, the Front does have Alawite supporters whose identity will remain concealed to protect them from the ire of the Assad regime. More importantly, Bayanouni assured that the Muslim Brotherhood does not apostasize the Alawites and that its members consider the Alawites as their brethren.

Still, to me, this is still a rather lacking discourse, and much still needs to be said and done in order to bridge the sectarian divide. But, and if as some argue, it is still too early in the game to adopt a step like the bicameral assembly that I have been proposing for a while now, on account that such measures cannot be effectively considered until the other sides of the equation are willing to sit down and talk about them, which may not take place until the transitional government is indeed in place, then, the least we can do at this stage is make our discourse a bit more encompassing than the above rhetoric.

Rather, what we need to say is this: so long as we are citizens of the same country, we should all have equal rights therein regardless of the one’s particular religious and political beliefs and convictions. For these rights, in the final analysis, stem from our common humanity, and it is indeed this fact that what we need to stress as often as we can. Because the Alawites, the Christians and the Druses out there, hell even the Sunnis, will not be filtering our words only through their sectarian backgrounds, but also through their political modes of discourse, be it Baathist, Communist, or liberal, which, by their very nature, require appeals to ideals of citizenship and civil rights rather than relying sectarianism. We should be proposing to find ways to resolve and deal effectively with this sensitive issue, not perpetuate it.

The credibility of the NSF will be measured by the ability to tackle sensitive issues more effectively than the regime is doing. For this reason, it is quite important for the NSF to develop a more effective media strategy over the next few months, one that aims to move the debate over the NSF and its struggle against the regime into the realm of ideas and far from the issue of personalities. It is about time we put an end to personality politics, and moved into the modern realm of political discourse and political competition.

PS. For more information about the recent NSF conference, check this site.