Saturday, 16 March 2013

Domination of Minorities

Dan Snow's "A History of Syria" (available here on iPlayer) provides some perspective on the domination of minorities and their reactions. According to this programme the Alawites were persecuted for many years by the majority Sunni Muslims until Hafez al-Assad seized government in 1970. His son is fighting to stay in power today. The fears of the Alawite minority in allowing democracy to empower a democratic Sunni majority, who may want to take revenge, may be a significant factor in the ongoing conflict.
So, can democracy protect the freedoms and rights of minorities?
I suspect that a countries culture is the most important factor in protecting minority rights, which may also be enshrined in law through acts or constitution.
But empathy surely has a role to play: if we can relate to the emotions of the abused there is a greater chance that we will want to protect them. Thus, hearing their stories is important. And Interactive Democracy can facilitate this through its web site.
Leadership is also important, as it is today in representative democracy. The type of leadership shown by Nelson Mandela, who fought for fairness across races, not domination by a democratic majority.
On the other hand, intolerant religions or ideologies may use democracy to crush small dissenting groups, as was seen in Hitler's rise to power.

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