Following up on a recent interview with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad on a special edition of the Charlie Rose Show, a Syrian embassy official contributed an op-ed piece in the Christian Science Monitor earlier this week extolling Syrian secularism as a model for the Middle East region:

Secularism is often defined as “indifference to or rejection or exclusion of religion and religious considerations.” Syria defines it differently—not in terms of “rejection,” or even “tolerance,” but in terms of “embracing” all religions and “taking pride” in a diverse heritage.

While some countries in the Middle East tout themselves as a state for one religion (the Jewish State), Syria prides itself on being a state for all religions—and no religion. It is this formula that defines the true Syrian identity.

This embrace of diversity is often misrecognized by Westerners who tend only to see the instances of “sporadic internal conflict,” the author continues. However, the global debate on secularism ignores the Syrian model at its own peril. Buttressing the Syrian variety of secularism is the best defense against extremism in the region, the diplomat concludes.

Read the full op-ed here.