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October 23, 2003
Syria -- Ruthlessly Secular?

That this article can run in the New York Times without a hint of irony is simply unbelievable:

Two decades after Syria ruthlessly uprooted militant Islam, killing an estimated 10,000 people, this most secular of Arab states is experiencing a dramatic religious resurgence. ... The widespread sense that the faith is being singled out for attack by Washington has invigorated that appeal, at a time when the violence fomented by radicals had tarnished political Islam. In Syria, some experts attribute the sudden openness of the phenomenon to a far more local fear. The hasty collapse of the Baath government next door in Iraq stunned Syria's rulers, particularly the fact that most Iraqis reacted to the American onslaught as if they were bored spectators.

Maybe Neil MacFarquhar has been living under a rock for the past 20 years, but Syria hasn't been "ruthlessly secular" -- Syria has been a major sponsor of Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, all Islamicist groups which epitomize the antithesis of "ruthlessly secular". And nowhere, nowhere in this article is mentioned a hint of Syria's support for these radical Islamicists. MacFarquhar manages to completely miss the story altogether.

Hafez Assad knew how to play his secular image to the West while financing and supporting radical Islamists in the Arab world. If Bashir Assad is nervous about radical Islam, it's not because it's rising due to Americans driving radicals out of Iraq. It's because he and his father have been using Islamofascists as tools to maintain power in the region, and perhaps their grasp on those tools has slipped. They've allowed these groups to build infrastructures within Syria and now that Syria has been weakened by the fall of Iraq -- no Baathist big brother to back up the relatively weak Syrians -- the Islamofascists may see Syria as an opportunity to re-establish a radical Islamic state.

Americans in particular should be laughing at the idea that Syria has been "ruthlessly secular" during this period. It was after the slaughter at Hama that the Islamofascist groups in Syria-occupied Lebanon began kidnapping a series of Americans, and where Islamicists blew up 243 Marines. Syria, which is unable to match up with Israel militarily, has waged a proxy war against Israel through these groups, in Palestine and southern Lebanon, for 20 years, especially Hezbollah, which also has Iranian backing.

At any rate, that such a story could run in the New York Times without even a mention of Syria's support for radical Islamic groups is astounding and disappointing in the extreme.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 23, 2003 10:49 PM

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