This article is is significant for two reasons:
First, it suggests there is dissatisfaction in the Alawi community with the Assad regime:
- “In a deeply unusual move, leaders of President Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite sect in Syria have released a document, obtained by the BBC, that distances themselves from his regime and outlines what kind of future they wish for the country after five years of civil war.”
It is not 100% clear who wrote this document, so it is difficult to judge how representative it is. However the Alawite community is the bedrock of the regime. Without that relationship the regime would be in big trouble. Having said that, even if there is dissatisfaction, the Alawi would likely find themselves in a very vulnerable position should the regime fall. They may be tied to the regime whether they like it or not -such is the logic and reality of sectarian conflicts.
Second, it sheds some light on a poorly understood community in the region. What is particularly interesting is the way the authors of the document differentiate themselves from Shi’ism. Although they are often considered a sect within Shi’sm, they portray themselves as a “a third model “of and within Islam”.
- “While acknowledging that they share some formal religious sources, the leaders stress that Alawism is distinct from Shia Islam, and decline previous legal rulings, or fatwas, by leading Shia clerics that seek to “appropriate the Alawites and consider Alawism an integral part of Shiism or a branch of the latter”.”
The document also acknowledges that the religion has incorporated beliefs from other monotheist belief systems but remains part of Islam. This too is important in that it is a defense against critics who claim the Alawi sect are not “legitimate” Muslims, and that it refers specifically to monotheist religious traditions, such as Judaism and Christianity which are considered part of the same religious tradition as Islam (i.e. people of the book). The critics have in the past accused the Alawi of non-monotheistic beliefs and practices which would make it harder for them to defend their traditions as being part of the Islamic spectrum.