“Syria has a long history as a cosmopolitan and commercial place; its traditions are tolerant and diverse,” he said. “This is what prevented the victory of the Islamists in the 1980s.”
The violence of that period eroded those traditions, he said, tincturing the whole society with intolerance and brutality. “We haven’t had a setback like this in 1,000 years,” he added. And though the Muslim Brotherhood, the group that led the armed rebellion in the 80s, is banned, Islamic fundamentalism “has grown and penetrated our society, especially among the young.”
“All this has harmed Syrian society so much,” he said sadly. “If what happened in the 1980s were to happen again, I think the Islamists would win.”
Those were the words of Syrian author Khaled Khalifa. His latest novel “In Praise of Hatred” is a finalist for International Prize for Arabic Fiction, even though banned in Syria. His comments above show that the path to defeat extremism is not brute force, but tolerance and diversity. This explains why extremists wish to turn back the clock and impose an intolerant and single minded society.