Religious minorities fear Syrian Islamists
Syrian Christians and other minorities are scared of potential government influence by Islamic hard-liners if President Bashar Assad falls, U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford says.
“A lot of Christians here are very frightened of it, frankly,” said Mr. Ford, speaking by phone with The Washington Times from the Syrian capital, Damascus.
He also said that many in the minority Allawite Muslim sect, business owners and reformers who advocate a separation between religion and state are also concerned about a rise of political Islam in Syria.
However, he said, he thinks those fears are exaggerated.
“But the fears among some elements of Syrian society cannot be ignored.”
“We have urged the Syrian opposition to develop a vision that they all agree on in terms of the state, how it would operate, and one of the issues … is how will it address the question of religion and religious minorities,” he said.
“They have to make, ultimately, the sales pitch that convinces the Christian community or the Allawi community that those communities’ interests are better served by change.”
It may be a hard sell for the Christians, many of whom are refugees from Iraq. An independent report, meanwhile, has revealed that nearly 93,000 Christians have fled Egypt since its February revolution.
However, Mr. Ford said a democratic government would not necessarily back Washington’s regional objectives, even though opposition activists remain grateful for U.S. support.
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