Why secularism is so important for Syria

The fierce war waged on Syria has stirred all sorts of storms, some of them were in the form of direct military conflict and physical warring, while others took the shape of a plethora of economic, media, cultural, religious and intellectual forms.

On the cultural, cognitive and intellectual levels, a number of paradigms made the headlines. A lot of debate was stirred on the would-be shape of the state. Secularism was often cited as the optimal solution to all problems.

Some other intellectuals questioned the validity of secularism in tackling all problems at stake and doubted that secularism alone would provide an adequate cure to all ailments at hand.

Initially, the paradigm of “Secularism is the Solution” might look like a simplified cloning of a doomed and long overdue paradigm that used to be promoted by some known parties. That outdated paradigm was “Islam is the solution”.

This paradigm has failed miserably in tackling any of the problems at stake. To the contrary, the over-growth of religious movements, especially the extremist bigotry ones,  are largely to blame for fueling the current war, because bigotry would only beget  bigotry.

Acknowledging the specific traditional identities of various communities should not translate into divisive nor hostile leanings.

Therefore the common existence of all well-established identities should be a social and cultural enrichment to the society rather than a reason for rivalry and contentions. Anyway, people of faith would continue to uphold their faith no matter what shape or form the state, they live in, would take.

Hence, promoting any potential paradigm would not be enough to tackle our daily problems nor our national crises. To do so, we need some more visionary future-oriented strategies coupled with compatible macro-development plans that would cover all aspects of life on the social, economic, cultural, intellectual, religious and political levels.

Such future-oriented planning should also address the educational aspect to make the best of our pluralism and diversity as featured in our multi-ethnic, multi-faith and multi-lingual social fabric.

We should enhance harmony and curb rivalry.

Poor  governance and mismanagement  might be cited as the major  reason behind almost, if not all, day to day problems. Poor governance might be ascribed to a plethora of both individual, collective or semi-collective factors.

The question, however, remains whether or not some religious or ideological orientations of certain individuals do play any role in this.

It might be argued that governance has nothing to do with the religious faith or the ideological beliefs of individuals. This might be true, but only theoretically. To be fair, there are indeed some ideologues (of various colors) embedded within our institutions.

They often play   certaindestructive roleseither clandestinelythrough certain cunning tactics or publicly when they have enough power to do so. Many of these saboteurs are driven by pure ideological  and/or   sectarian motivations.

Some of these “dormant saboteurs” are experts in crisis-initiations. They select their victims, who would usually be humble and polite persons  and set their traps to ensnare them.

For instance, they would  startsome unprovoked quarrels with their  designated  “victim” to entice a reflexive  over-reaction and they take this particular temperament  over-reaction as a justification either to escalate the quarrel into some ugly confrontation and/or seize upon it and derail the entire encounter into a situation where the victim would look like being the bad one or the “light-headed” trivial individual who is incapable of controlling  own temper.

Such tactics have often been used by sinister opportunists to brush aside, subdue or control their potential rivals at the workplace.

An appropriate anti-dote is therefore badly needed to protect potential victims against such cheap and sinister tactics.

Polite and talented individuals, who do not have either the means nor the cunningness to timely debunk and consequently handle such unexpected malicious entrapping should be provided with proper means to defend themselves and ward off such tricks.

It is quite  normal for innocent victims to lose temper and/or over-react to maliciously pre-connived stunts, as they would not imagine that  their “hunters” were lurking for them in the dark.

This is just one example of many other malicious tactics being applied by “sleeping saboteurs” against potential talented calibers. A talented person, who might excel in own field of profession need not necessarily been a cunning person nor a cunning-immune one. It is our duty to provide such individuals with enough means of protection so that they would offer their valuable contribution to their profession and would not be a ‘sitting duck’ for sinister “hunters” of all colors.

Hence, we can safely say that corruption has many shapes and forms. It is not financial only. Corruption might demonstrate itself in the shape of turning a healthy work-place into a hell-like scene of rivalry.

Whatever the case, and whether such individuals were acting under the cloak of religiosity or secularism, no one can deny the fact that secularism is the most inclusive umbrella for all  communities and cross-spectrum political forces to thrive. Religious communities can live and prosper under secularism, but the opposite is not true.

Religious or theocratic states would not offer enough guarantees for free thinkers to prosper or express their ideas courageously. There would not be enough room for difficult questions to be posed, freely debated and/or adequately argued.

True that corruption is not the bad fruit of a specific ideology and true that we might see a lot of corrupt individuals within religious as well as secular schools of thought, but more true is that secularism is an irreplaceable and indispensable form of good governance for cross-spectrum communities.

It might be useful here to note that consumerism has been deliberately promoted all over the world over the past decade or so. This was coupled with the promotion of certain “opportunist egoists”who have been propelled into world-fame by the media, to create the false impression that one should care only for own selfish interests. This corrupt culture is another form of corruption.

As an example, one might cite how media promoted individuals such as George Soros, known as the “father of color revolutions” with his Open Society platform.

As many others like him, this individual is said to have gained  huge amounts of money through immoral ways. But instead of being put to trial, he is still one of the key players on the international landscape and is believed to have a say on many major events around the world.

Soros is widely believed to have been behind the financial crisis that hit the Asian Tigers economies late last century and he is believed to have been behind a similar  crisis that hit even the Bank of England. So, why has not he been held accountable?

In other words, can we curb corruption on the national level while global mafia is still ruling the world?

This question should not be viewed as a justification for our lax in fighting corruption. As we maintained military resistance against forces of aggression, we have to devise ways to fight corruption at home.

And even if we can not eradicate corruption fully and entirely, we should at least try to envision some healthier structures and strategies to put corruption in check and reduce it to minimal levels. This is an essential task to create a healthy working place for our national talents to grow, proper and positively contribute to the welfare of the country.

To do so, we have to streamline a great deal of individual and collective efforts to envisage better, healthier and more productive social, economic,  and educational institutions run by sound administrative structures.

Whatever the case, we have to always keep in mind that the only alternative to inclusive secularism is the mushrooming of petite ethnic or sectarian identities that would divide the society rather than unite it.

People of all faiths can live freely in a secular state, but the opposite is not true. Hence, we have to always beware the huge difference between individual faith, which manifests itself through the individual’s relation with own God, on the one hand, and the religious structure of the state. To protect freedom of faith and thought, we have to have an inclusive secular state for all citizens.

Z.Saleh- Damascus, August 3, 2018

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