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Michel Aflaq was the founder of the Ba’athism, a secular political ideology combining elements of Arab-nationalism and socialism that influenced the Syrian and Iraqi Ba’ath regimes. A Greek Orthodox raised in Damascus, Aflaq became involved in Arab-nationalist politics while studying in Paris. In 1954Aflaq and his friend Salah al-Bitar, a Syrian Muslim, established the Ba’ath Party, which rose to power in Syria in a bloodless coup in 1963. Despite the political success of the Ba’ath party, Aflaq grew disillusioned with the Syrian Ba’ath government. He split from the party and was forced to seek exile from Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath government. Much controversy exists over Aflaq’s alleged midlife conversion to Islam. Upon his death, Aflaq received a Muslim funeral, and the Iraqi government claimed Aflaq had secretly converted to Islam. Aflaq’s family maintained, however, that the alleged conversion was a political tool to dissociate Ba’athism from Christianity.