In Syria, the Christians are angry. For eleven months, many of their leaders have stood firmly behind the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. However, Syria’s new constitution explicitly says in Article 3 that the president of the country has to be a Muslim, thereby barring Christians from the right to run for the top post.

On Sunday, pro-government Syrians went to the polls to approve the new constitution. In protest of Article 3, Christians voted with a “no,” while the opposition movement boycotted the election altogether, saying that it was inconceivable for it to take place while the country is up in flames. Nevertheless, the new constitution passed.

The controversial clause in Article 3 has been around for a long time, ever since Syria established its first constitution in 1920. Both secular and Christian Syrians have over the years tried to amend the clause but to no avail. In 1973, President Hafez al-Assad released a constitutional draft that omitted reference to Islam as the official religion of the state, which enraged conservative Muslims. Faced with pressure, Assad eventually restored Article 3 to its original form.

But now, as Arab Spring sweeps across the Arab world, Syria needs to rethink its old ways. What the government should realize is that it’s bad politics to bar any religious group from running for presidency. If a Muslim Kurd from Qamishly has a possibility of running for the job, then why can’t a Christian from Damascus?

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