Syria Shuts Its Casino To Appease Religious Groups

Just three months after it opened for business, Syria has now shut the country’s only casino in a move seen to appease its conservative Muslims.
In December 2010, Syria saw its first casino open since the Baath party came to power in 1963 and shut down the country’s casinos under pressure from religious groups.
The Ocean Club was located around 20 miles outside Damascus and its opening was seen as a sign that the country was becoming more secular, western friendly, as well trying to promote itself as a tourist venue.
Despite proving popular amongst Syrian, Iraqi and Jordanian visitors, the casino, however, soon ran into opposition from religious groups.
Commenting at the time of its opening, Damascus resident Abu Mohammad stated: “My opinion is that we don’t need to have this gambling here. It’s forbidden by religion and I wouldn’t touch any money that had come from gambling.”
Mohammad’s sentiment was shared by many throughout the country, including renowned Islamic scholar and parliament member Mohammad Habash, who concluded that “we are responsible to fight against such activity.”
Following the recent pro-democracy protests in Syria in which up to 173 people have died, it seems religious groups have now got their wish after President Bashar al-Assad made the unusual concessions.
“It is not known whether this is a permanent closure or a temporary move to appease extremist Islamist groups who have been calling for the casino’s closure for months,” quoted the German Press Agency DPA recently.
In the meantime, casino staff have been told to stay away until further notice even as the business and symbol of freedom is left abandoned as a concession to radicals.
At the same time, President Bashar al-Assad also announced a repeal on his ban of teachers wearing the Islamic veil, as he tries to appease the increasingly angry protesters.

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