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"In actual fact, the name 'Alawī' appears as early as in an 11th century Nuṣayrī tract (…).Moreover, the term 'Alawī' was already used at the beginning of the 20th century.In 1903 the Belgian-born Jesuit and Orientalist Henri Lammens (d.1937) visited a certain Ḥaydarī-Nuṣayrī sheikh Abdullah in a village near Antakya and mentions that the latter preferred the name 'Alawī' for his people.Today, Alawites represent 11 percent of the Syrian population and are a significant minority in Turkey and northern Lebanon.There is also a population living in the village of Ghajar in the Golan Heights. Alawites form the dominant religious group on the Syrian coast and towns near the coast which are also inhabited by Sunnis, Christians, and Ismailis. Like other Muslims, the Qur'an is their primary holy book, and Muhammed is recognized as the Prophet of God. The Alawites also drink alcohol in their rituals; while other Muslims abstain from alcohol, Alawites are encouraged to drink socially in moderation. Alawites have historically kept their beliefs secret from outsiders and non-initiated Alawites, so rumours about them have arisen.But Alawite theology and rituals break from mainstream Shiite Islam in several remarkable ways. Arabic accounts of their beliefs tend to be partisan (either positively or negatively).At the core of Alawite belief is a divine triad, comprising three aspects of the one God.
The term is frequently employed as hate speech by Sunni fundamentalists fighting against Bashar al-Assad's government in the Syrian civil war, who use its emphasis on Ibn Nusayr in order to insinuate that Alawi beliefs are "man-made" and not divinely inspired.
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However, the term "Nusayri" had fallen out of currency by the 1920s, as a movement led by intellectuals within the community during the French Mandate sought to replace it with the modern term "Alawi".
They characterised the older name (which implied "a separate ethnic and religious identity") as an "invention of the sect's enemies", ostensibly favouring an emphasis on "connection with mainstream Islam"—particularly the Shia branch.