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The establishment of the French Mandate of Syria marked a turning point in Alawi history.
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.Recent research has shown that the Alawi appellation was used by the sect's adherents since the 11th century.The following quote from Alkan (2012) illustrates this point: "In actual fact, the name 'Alawī' appears as early as in an 11 th-century Nuṣayrī tract (…).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.The Alawite State was later dismantled, but the Alawites continued to be a significant part of the Syrian army.
Since Hafez al-Assad took power in 1970, the government has been dominated by a political elite led by the Alawite Al-Assad family.
French occupying forces used the term Alaouites, a transliteration into French. According to Samuel Lyde, who lived among the Alawites during the mid-19th century, this was a term they used among themselves.
Other sources indicate that "Ansari" is simply a Western error in the transliteration of "Nosairi".
As such, "Nusayri" is now generally regarded as antiquated, and has even come to have insulting and abusive connotations.
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.
During the Islamic uprising in Syria in the 1970s and 1980s the establishment came under pressure.