January 25, 2012

When the US invaded Iraq to overthrow the minority Sunni dictatorship, we set off a civil war between the Sunnis and the Shi’ite majority. The most vulnerable were non-Muslim minorities who didn’t have the numbers to form their own militias.

Before American intervention, Iraq was home to something like 50,000 Gnostics. But in democratizing Iraq, the Gnostics’ numbers have fallen by close to 90%, with most escaping to Jordan’s monarchical stability or Syria’s ethnic-minority dictatorship.

Likewise, hundreds of thousands of Assyrian Christians fled Iraq’s political tumult. Did George W. Bush’s loyal evangelical Christian base worry that their hero’s disruption of Iraqi somnolence in the name of democracy was destroying one of the world’s oldest Christian communities? Don’t be silly.

Until the Arab Spring, Syria was a prudent refuge for Christians because it’s a dictatorship wholly ruled by one minority, the Alawites, who treat other minorities well in their quest to keep the majority Sunnis from their own throats.

The Alawites are another complex ethnicity with deep roots. They are despised by the Sunni majority as not being true Muslims. (Alawites are said to celebrate Christmas and Easter.) When the French took control from the Ottomans after WWI, most of the Sunnis shunned joining the colonial security forces. But after centuries of Sunni oppression, the Alawites thought that getting paid by European experts to use guns and push Sunnis around was a great idea.

It’s widely assumed that the ascendant Islamist urge is merely a phase which will be replaced by a minority-sensitive End of History.

But that ignores Razib Khan’s insight about why Muslims worldwide are becoming less diverse and more dogmatic. Over time, more money means more pilgrimages to Mecca. And when the Hajis get back, they lord it over the poor stay-at-homes with social-climbing upbraidings about how “When I was in Mecca, we did it this way.”



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