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Implications of Syrian Independence



Question of independence and examination of the various issues in handing over power from French control.


Secret memorandum by Headquarters of the British Troops in the North Levant on 'The Christian-Moslem problem in Syria'.

* Fact that Maronites pushing for Christian control with foreign/ overseas protection in order to prevent 'Moslem (sic) domination' (Ref. 41)

Religious communities divided into: Christians, Maronites, Muslims - Shia, Sunni, Alawites, Ismalis and Druzes.
Greatest section of Syrian population is Arab and Muslim

* Druzes and Alawites -'secret sects, but they probably take something out of Christianity and paganism as well as from Islam'.

* Most important Christian sects- Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox - 'Past Relations of Christian and Moslem(sic) elements: Ottoman Empire, Sultan felt 'little sympathy with religious minorities, and too often the Turks solved the minority problem, particularly the Armenian one, by applying the decisive proverb: 'Stone dead hath no fellow'

However later, the Sultan, after pressure from Christian powers, Russia, France and Britain, introduced a more 'statesmanlike attitude'- toleration with the 'millet system' - religious head of each Christian community responsible to government for good behaviour and loyalty of his flock

However, millet system 'emphasised rather than reduced the differences between the Christians and Moslems(sic) within the Empire, therefore when France came to Syria there existed a state of religious disunity born of years of religious discrimination under the Turks'. France therefore maximised on this, with the 'divide and rule' policy of playing the various communities against each other.

Different religious communities view the future, with the withdrawal of Franco-British forces, differently:

*Arab Christians are less fearful and on good terms with the Muslims, versus those foreign communities which are affiliated to foreign powers - Maronites/Catholics.

* Jezireh -a 'special case' because a large number of various Christian sects live there, hence suggestion that this area may need special foreign patrol to ensure 'fair treatment of Christians. Any appearance of favouritism towards the Christians at the expense of the Moslems would have to be most carefully avoided'. (Ref. 44)

Christian-Muslim question in the Lebanon is analysed. Considerable difficulties continue because various reasons, including the 'divide and rule policy of French Mandatory authorities, memories of former intercommunal strife which still haunts the more backward Lebanon and an increasing difference of culture because of the fact that the Christians look Westwards and Moslems eastwards'

Notes on Christian and Muhammaden Situation in Syria and the Lebanon (Ref. 70) written by Brigadier Friere, a Roman Catholic 'with considerable experience of the Levant States'

Main point - France instrumental and key role in alarming the Christian communities of the dangers they would be exposed to in event of French withdrawal from area.

French even involved the Vatican council:

'This theory of Christian danger is being exploited by the French to the full in their arguments about the future of the Levant States. It is a theory which causes some alarm among audiences in Great Britain and America to whom the other side has been presented. The Vatican mission has been dominated by and nationalised by the French, as transpired during a recent visit by the Franciscan superior to Aleppo. The Vatican, fed with misleading reports from French sources, is unconsciously becoming and political tool of the French.' (Ref. 71)

+ File on Muslim Brotherhood

interview of its leaders, Said Ramadhan, who travelled to US to present 'the Muslim Brotherhood viewpoint'

* States it was founded in 1928 in Ismailia by Hasan al-Banna 'to create a religious organisation that would live up to the truths and ideals of Islam'

* Refutes accusation that violence is a tactic organisation indulge in, 'on contrary, it is used to try to stop us'

- British Embassy in Washington sarcastically remarked 'He was "sweet reasonableness itself" and draws a picture of the MB as a religious society working for the uplift of moral standards'

- Conflicts with Egyptian government of Nasser, states that 'peaceful coexistence no longer possible' and calls within the MB for Nasser's assassination

- Some Brotherhood members were deported, including Said Ramadhan - exiled to Syria

- Grand Council of the Ulema at Al Azhar University November 17th 1954, declared that the Muslim Brotherhood an un Islamic organisation -a 'transgression against Islam" because of its use of violence as a strategic tactic.

-MB activists on trial - five sentenced to death

PRO File: FO 371 108319  

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