As the observers and analysts of events in the Middle East were busy looking at the aftermath of the downing of the IL-20 and the deployment of the S-300 in Syria, a great new danger is now looming.
President Assad issued a legislative decree (Decree No 16) and which is intended to reform the ministry of Awqaf (Religious Endowments). The “Awqaf” is a Sunni Muslim tradition that has been around for centuries, and its role is to manage the funds of family trusts. After the dismembering of the Ottoman Empire, the new states separated their own “Awqaf” and established their own religious bodies to manage these affairs and funds.
Much has been said in the Arab World about Presidential Decree No. 16, but in reality, nothing has been said about its actual contents and context. When I began reading criticisms of it, they gave the impression that the Decree is handing over the executive authority of Syria to the Sunni Clergy. Videos made and posted by Syrian activists expressed grave concern about Syria following the footsteps of Saudi Arabia in imposing Shariah law on the streets of Syria. There are countless posts reiterating that they are against the imposition of Shariah dress on Syrian women and other similar concerns and linking this to the Decree. There was also confusion about the origin of the Decree and a great deal of criticism of the Minister of Awqaf as the man allegedly being behind it all.
This soon developed into a wave of paranoia and fury that dragged in many normally sombre and serious analysts and activists into supporting the outrage and expressing deep concern and even anger against the government.
I observed all these developments with great concern, not knowing if they were based on any reasonable foundations because I did not really see the actual wording of the Decree in question. The confusion relating to the origin of the Decree, among other things, made it difficult to Google, however I finally managed to find it.
To begin with, and contrary to the statements of many its critics, it is a Presidential Decree and not one originating from the Minister as these critics claimed.