Religion, Political & Legal Structures

The Syrian constitution explicitly supports the free expression of religion. In practice, however, proselytizing is discouraged, conversion is restricted, and groups that are deemed to be “extremists” are banned and subject to arrest and prosecution. Among the prohibited groups are Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Muslim Brotherhood, those judged to be associated with any form of Salafi Islam and (recently) many members of the opposition who are considered to pose a threat to the republic.

Other relevant constitutional features include that the President has to be Muslim; Islamic jurisprudence should be the primary source of legislation; and inheritance laws are based on Islamic law. The government keeps a tight rein on religious groups; all must register with the government, and Jews are banned from communicating with Jews in Israel. Though schools are officially non-sectarian, religious private schools are allowed and religious instruction is provided in schools for Muslims and Christians. Additionally, the Ba’ath Party’s dominant status is established in the constitution as being “the leader of state and society.”[1]

[1] “International Religious Freedom Report, 2012: Syria,” United States Department of State http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/religiousfreedom/index.htm?year=2012&dlid=208412%23wrapper%3E, accessed May 18, 2013.