A beautiful essay posted on Medium.com, entitled “A Marine in Syria: Silhouettes of Beauty and Coexistence before the Devastation” by Brad Hoff, draws our attention to what for the warmongers in Washington is a highly inconvenient truth: the secular dictatorships in the Middle East the U.S. has sought to destroy since 9/11 (including most recently that of Libya) have been far more tolerant towards religious and cultural diversity than the regimes that have replaced them.
In particular, the much-vilified Baath Party, which governed Iraq during the Saddam years and continues to govern Syria, was and is based upon the principle of secularism (non-religious, relatively religiously tolerant) rule.
Hoff, who “served” (as they say) as a Marine in Iraq between 2000 and 2004, first visited Syria in 2004 in order to study Arabic. He describes his surprise at how the experience challenged the “false assumptions” about the Arab world acquired during his “Texas Baptist childhood.” Describing Damascus in 2004 under Bashar Assad’s Baathist rule he writes:
“What I actually encountered were mostly unveiled women wearing European fashions and sporting bright makeup — many of them wearing blue jeans and tight fitting clothes that would be commonplace in American shopping malls on a summer day. I saw groups of teenage boys and girls mingling in trendy cafes late into the night, displaying expensive cell phones. There were plenty of mosques, but almost every neighborhood had a large church or two with crosses figured prominently in the Damascus skyline. As I walked near the walled “old city” section, I was surprised to find entire streets lined with large stone and marble churches. At night, all of the crosses atop these churches were lit up — outlined with blue fluorescent lighting, visible for miles; and in some parts of the Damascus skyline these blue crosses even outnumbered the green-lit minarets of mosques.