Regime head Bashar al-Assad has issued a new law which grants the Ministry of Religious Endowments broad powers, through which it will monitor educational and financial institutions, as well as controlling artistic and cultural production and appointing the mufti every three years.
The new law grants broad powers to the Minister of Religious Endowments, and considers it to be “the legitimate and legal representative for Islamic endowments in Syria,” the supervisor of sharia academies and schools and the Head of the Supreme Fiqh Council and the Central Religious Endowments Council.
According to the law, the new tasks of the Ministry include “coordinating with the Ministries of Information and Culture to oversee programs pertaining to religious work in all media, and likewise religious publications.”
The new law includes a ban on Friday preachers and religious instructors exploiting the minbar for political purposes or to incite sectarian strife. It also prohibits membership to banned or unlicensed political parties and participation in conferences in or outside Syria or even departing Syrian territory without obtaining the Minister’s or a deputy’s approval.
Lawyers and activists have warned that the new law allows broad powers for the Minister of Religious Endowments at the expense of the republic’s mufti, while giving them the right to intervene in other activities outside the scope of their administration, such as publications.
By giving broad powers to the Ministry of Religious Endowments, specialists believe that the Assad regime is sanctifying the grip of authorities on religious institutions in Syria; a move that bears a totalitarian mindset, tied to the ideas of the regime and the single state.
Since the time of Hafez al-Assad, the Assad regime has relied on keeping a grip on religious institutions and exploiting them for its interests and aims. With the eruption of the revolution, Assad has followed the course of his father, and has tried to put more pressure on religious institutions and employ religious figures to serve his interests.
The regime has relied on sermons at mosques to encourage young men to join the military, in addition to spreading the regime policy of fighting “terrorism” and obscuring the Syrian revolution or denying its existence.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.