A document allegedly leaked to Western media by a group of Alawite leaders claims Bashar al-Assad’s religious sect is “dissociating” itself from the Syrian dictator’s leadership.
“Some Alawite leaders are challenging the intent and legitimacy of a document leaked to Western media, presumably issued by Alawite notables, that proclaims an independent Alawite identity and breaking all ties with the Assad regime,” reports Al-Monitor.
“The document was criticized, especially by opponents of the Syrian regime, for not being signed and dated and for including several grammatical and spelling mistakes, all of which challenges its credibility, they said,” adds the report. “Nevertheless, the Western media gave it political dimensions that it did not initially have regarding the Alawite sect’s disassociation from the regime and the Assad family.”
The Telegraph reports that the document was secretly smuggled out of Syria and shared with a handful of European journalists.
According to the news outlet, “The document attempts to redefine the core faith of the Alawites, often regarded as a mysterious hybrid of Shia Islam. It claims it is a branch of Islam that is separate from both Shia and Sunni.”
The Telegraph adds:
That is significant because the regime’s support from Iran is partly explained by the historic links between their beliefs. It says the group should abandon its longstanding persecution complex – the Alawites have often been marginalized and oppressed, a historical trend that has been used to explain its aggression against the Sunni majority under the Alawite Assad regime and particularly in the civil war. Its members have been accused of repeated massacres of Sunni civilians.
Anonymous Alawite sheikhs reportedly said the document was not calling for Assad to step down or advocating any solution to the Syrian crisis. In fact, some document authors reportedly support Assad’s presidency, notes The Telegraph.
Nevertheless, the document refers to the Assad regime as “totalitarian” and describes the opposition as “an initiative of noble anger.”
BBC adds that the document makes clear that Alawite leaders embrace “the values of equality, liberty and citizenship,” and call for secularism in Syria and a system of governance in which Islam, Christianity, and all other religions are accepted.
Al-Monitor cites some Syria-based Alawites who question the authenticity of the document. Nevertheless, it also quotes an American academic who specializes in Syrian affairs as saying, on condition of anonymity, that “the document is real, and there are secular elites and Alawite clerics behind it.”
The U.S.-based academic adds:
They confirm the independence of their sect by declaring it with transparency. They are calling for a mutual forgiveness with the Sunnis. They have forgiven the fatwas — issued by Ibn Taymiyyah and his successors [in 1263-1328] in Damascus, which viewed the Alawites as infidels and persecuted them — provided that the Sunnis forgive the Alawite authority’s violence over the past four decades. These Alawites are distinguishing themselves from the regime, without opposing it.