Once secular Syria turning into a little Iran

As these so-called Democratic Revolutions spread through North Africa and Middle East, all the once secular Muslim countries are rapidly becoming fundamentalist Islamic theocracies, where freedoms are curtailed and women are oppressed.

It was only a year or so ago that I posted these stories about Syria’s popular sexy lingerie market and the burqa ban.

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Now look what’s happening….

Syria closed the country’s only casino Wednesday and reversed a decision that bans teachers from wearing the Islamic veil — moves seen an attempt to reach out to conservative Muslims ahead of calls for pro-democracy demonstrations.

Syrian activists have called for fresh demonstrations on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to honor more than 80 people killed in a crackdown on protests that erupted nearly three weeks ago.

President Bashar Assad’s decisions Wednesday were unusual concessions to religious concerns in Syria, which promotes a strictly secular identity.

The recent protests, however, have brought sectarian tensions into the open as thousands of people took to the streets calling for democracy in a country where Alawites — a branch of Shiite Islam that represents just 11 percent of the population — have been in power for nearly 40 years. The country is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim.

Assad banned the niqab, the full Islamic face veil that reveals only a woman’s eyes, in July as part of his campaign to mute sectarian differences. Hundreds of primary school teachers who were wearing the niqab at government-run schools were transferred in June to administrative jobs, angering many conservative Muslims.

On Wednesday, Ali Saad, the education minister in the Syria’s caretaker government, said the teachers were now allowed to return to their jobs, according to the state-run news agency, SANA. He added that the ministry would discuss any new application by any teacher willing to go back to her work.

The billowing black robe known as a niqab is not widespread in Syria, although it has become more common recently — something that has not gone unnoticed in a country governed by a secular regime.

Also Wednesday, the Syrian state-run newspaper Tishrin reported that Casino Damascus has been closed because the practices of the club’s owners that “violate laws and regulations.” It did not elaborate.

Observant Muslims consider casino betting, lottery participation and sports betting to be particularly un-Islamic.

The recent unrest in Syria, which exploded nationwide three weeks ago, is a new and highly unpredictable element of the Arab Spring, which has seen popular uprisings in countries including Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen. NY POST