Major Religious Factions Of Syria Essay

2309 words - 10 pages

The French’s mandate over Syria after World Ware One had an irrevocable impact on the nations’s communal factions. The mandate lasted from 1920-1946 and they begun their rule with intentionally made sectarian divisions. They were made in order to prevent Arab nationalism and stifle national independence movements. The divisions were made my religious and national minority. Granting the minorities independent status locations where they make up the majority. For example, there was a large population of Alawites in the mountain range behind Latakia, the French declared them a separate state. The Druze were granted the right and ability to govern themselves in the city of Jabal, just south of Damascus. The one religious group that did not enjoy the effects of the French mandate were the Sunni Muslims. In Syrian history, the Sunnis were viewed as the elitist, being dominant in politics, officer corps, gendarme and the police force. With the imposed separation of communal factions, the Sunnis had less power and influence. The divide-and-rule strategy the French imposed eroded the relationships among Syria’s religious and ethnic groups, ties that would have been valuable later in Syrian politics. Further analyzing the major religious factions of Syria thorough depicts development of their bitter relationships (Fildis).
Those who observe the Druze religion are part of one of the smaller religious factions, yet still have a notable presence in the Syrian culture. The Druze create 6% of the Syrian population; their small number made it easy to be overlooked or taken advantage of by those in power in Syria (Carpenter). As previously stated, the French granted the Druze an independent state in Jabal in 1922. Later that year, a Syrian federation was created and all states joined with the exception of the Druze in Jabal. They remained administratively separate from the rest of Syria until 1942, this right acquired through the French was greatly beneficial to the Druze population (Fildis).
The Alawites are another religions minority that flourished during the French mandate. A small faction making up 12% of the Syrian population, were referred to as Nusaryi, a label that emphasized their religious groups different approach to Islam, were viewed as heretics of the Islamic religion. During the Ottoman rule, the Nusaryi were the most numerous and poorest of the peasants. Of the Nusaryi who were fortunate enough to have a job, were most likely worked for the Sunni Muslim landlords in the mountain region. In 1920, the French changed their named to Alawite. The term “Alawi” suggested an adherent to Ali, the son in law of Muhammad. This was done to highlight the similarities to the Shiite branch of Islam. The Alawites thrived more than any other faction from the French mandate. The villages on the mountain range and bordering city of Latakia were composed of high amounts of the Alawite faction. The French mandate allowed the areas the govern...

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