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Throughout the turbulent history of the Levant the 'Alawis - a secretive, resilient and ancient Muslim sect - have aroused suspicion and animosity, including accusations of religious heresy. More recently they have been tarred with the brush of political separatism and com--plicity in the excesses of the Assad regime, claims that have gained greater traction since the onset of the Syrian uprising and subse--quent devastating civil war. The contributors to this book provide a com--plex and nuanced reading of Syria's 'Alawi communities - from loyalist gangs (Shabiha) to outspoken critics of the regime. Drawing upon wide-ranging research that examines the historic, political and social dynamics of the 'Alawi and the Syrian state, the current social identities, and relations to the Ba'ath party, the Syrian state and the military apparatus. The analysis also extends to Leba--n with a focus on the embattled 'Alawi community of Jabal Mohsen in Tripoli and state rela--tions with Hizballah amid the current crisis.
Michael Kerr is Professor of Conflict Studies and Director of the Middle East and Mediterranean Studies programme, at King's College London. Craig Larkin is Lecturer in Comparative Politics of the Middle East, King's College London.