On Coexistence

Sami Moubayed wrote a very interesting article about Syrian Christians. He mentions Faris Al-Khury as one of the most famous Syrian Christian to assume senior government posts. Al-Khury served as Prime Minister and as a Parliament Speaker in the 1940s and 1950s. The article tells of an interesting example of religious co-existence that existed in Syria during Khury's era:
When Khury became prime minister in 1945, there was no Ministry of Awkaf, religious endowments, in Syria. Its duties were handled by the Prime Minister’s Office. A parliamentary bloc opposed to Khury’s National Bloc in Parliament opposed his appointment saying that it was absurd for a Christian to administer the affairs of the Muslim community in Syria. Surprisingly, the Muslim bloc, headed by Sheikh Abd al-Hamid al-Tabba, vetoed the refusal saying: “We, the Muslim bloc in Parliament, entrust Faris Bey al-Khury with our Awkaf more so than we entrust ourselves."
Edmonton Journal, a Canadian daily, writes about Maaloula, the Syrian village that still speaks Aramaic, the language of Jesus:

One of the ironies of life in a village that makes a modest livelihood out of its Christian connections is that by a margin of nearly two to one, more Muslims than Christians still speak the language of Christ, although churches outnumber mosques by eight to two. However, true to Christ's teachings and unlike most of the world, the various faiths here have generally gotten along well for many centuries.

"As kids, I participated in Christmas every year. I even used to do the Christian chants," said Amas Kamar Mallwola, 23, a Muslim. (...) "I have no problem with this because Jesus Christ was a prophet just as Mohammad was. I am happy to speak a language so few speak and to speak a language of the prophet, Jesus Christ."

Kamil-Alexandre from the Syrian Thinktank in Montreal writes:

While Syria has a long way to go in improving political freedoms, no one can ignore the other side of the human rights coin; Religious freedom. (...) Syria, and Lebanon are the Arab world’s only places where Christians and other minorities felt safe and at home. (...) Syrian Christians who have been watching tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians escape the new more-sectarian Iraq into Syria, have one more reminder to work hard on making sure Syria remains a secular country.

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Syrian Christians and Muslims celebrate the lighting of a Christmas tree called 'Peace Tree' at a square in Damascus on Wednesday evening Dec. 21, 2005. The tree, made of steel wrapped up with 12 million shiny beads, is the Middle East's largest Christmas tree. (AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi)

Milad Majid

I hate it when people in Syria use Merry Christmas and Joyeux Noel as a Christmas greeting. It makes one feel like Christmas is a non-Arab tradition that we learned to observe. It is not! Christmas should not be "less Arab" than Ramadan or Eid El Fitr. Christmas celebrations should maintain the original touch of local identity: Flashing milad majids instead of Merry Christmases and resounding Laylet Eid instead of Jingle Bells.

 
Milad Majid everybody!

News Catchup

An Israeli journalist wrote that a Syrian diplomat likened a murdered Lebanese politician to a dog. The father of the murdered Lebanese decided to sue the Syrian before American courts. The story is making headlines. Welcome to the Middle East.

Syrian Forum

I got this from a friend:

A new website called SyriaForum.org has recently been opened on the Internet. The main feature of the website is a comprehensive discussion forum about several different topics pertaining to Syria (examples: politics, society and culture, arts and entertainment, religion, human rights, news, etc). The forum is completely open and is virtually unmoderated.

On top of the discussion board foundation, a news section featuring short summaries and links to current articles concerning Syria is operating. The best part about this is that it is controlled by users of the website. Whoever signs up for a free account gains not only the ability to start discussions on the forums but also to submit news items to the website.

Given a bit of time to mature, moral support from the Syrian community, and dedication by its users, I believe SyriaForum.org has the capacity to become an important feature of Syrian society on the internet. Not only will it provide a means of making connections between Syrians all over the world, but perhaps more importantly it will provide a valuable resource for non-Syrians to learn more about Syrians and their culture.

Join now!

The Problem of Irrelevance

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I've been asked why I have not posted in a long time. The answer is that I don't have anything to write. I don't want to write about politics that are the subject of every discussion in Syria. Not only because there are countless professional analyses and articles about Syria everywhere on the web, but because I still feel -several months after we got into this- that I cannot shape my own opinion on what's going on. My state of confusion is sill there and I think it will live for months to come. I'd prefer not to broadcast it through this blog. But then I have the feeling that any other topic would sound very irrelevant, out of place and out of reality. The other day I made a tour through Syrian chat rooms. At many, people were not flirting and talking nonsense, they were discussing the price of the dollar. I will shut up.

Thank You My Homeland

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Reuters : Most Syrians remember Akkad's words in an interview when he answered a question about his success story by saying: "Thank you my homeland. Thank you my homeland. Thank you my homeland..."

(AP photo/Bassem Tellawi)

Mustapha Al-Akkad (1930-2005)

Akkad

"I did the film because it is a personal thing for me. Besides its production values as a film, it has its story, its intrigue, its drama. Beside all this I think there was something personal; being a Muslim myself who lived in the West, I felt that it was my obligation, my duty to tell the truth about Islam. It is a religion that has a 700 million following, yet it's so little known about, which surprised me. I thought I should tell the story that will bring this bridge, this gap to the West." 

-  Mustapha Al-Akkad in a 1976 interview about "The Message"

I watched "the Message" a hudred times when I was a kid. I can still recite whole parts of the movie and I have many of the scenes copied in my mind. Just like I were watching it right now, I can imagine the scene where Muslim troops, all dressed up in peaceful white, enter pagan Mecca and announce that no soul will be harmed and no blood will be shed. Mustapha Al-Akkad excelled in representing the life of Muhammad (PBUH) and his true teachings of love, peace, tolerance and forgiveness.

May the soul of Mustapha Al-Akkad rest in peace and may God's punishment fall upon those who killed him and all those who support them.

Links:

Islam Slaughtered in Amman

I was horrified to watch pictures of death and carnage coming out from Amman. I cannot understand how a human being can become so barbaric to kill innocent helpless people and so stupid to think that he will rewarded with eternity in Heaven. All those self-proclaimed martyrs will no doubt rot in Hell.

I felt shivers down my spine when I read that Syrian-American film director Mustapha Al-Akkad was injured in the terrorist attacks and that his daughter Rima was killed. It's a tragic irony that this man, who promoted the real Islamic values of tolerance, mercy and compassion in his famous epic movie "The Message," was a victim of those human beasts who are claiming to represent Islam and Muslims.

They stole Islam and we are not even trying to get it back. I am currently reading the new book, The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam Back From the Extremists, by Islamic scholar Khaled Abou El Fadl. In the book, Abou El Fadl explains how radical schools of thought (Wahhabism/Salafism) that are represented today by terrorist groups like Al-Qaida were nothing but aberrations from mainstream moderate Islam, though unfortunately, their claim to represent original orthodox Islam was supported by some Muslims under influence of political, economic and social factors. Moderate Islam still dominates, Abou El Fadl argues, and it's the duty of all Muslims to lead a counter-jihad against the extremists to claim Islam back.

Muslims can't simply watch Islam being murdered again in Amman and do nothing about it. Every suicide bombing that rips apart our real Islamic values confirms the fact that the real danger facing Islam today is the danger from within rather from the West.

My prayers go to the families of the victims and to all the people of Amman. May God protect Jordan and its people from any harm.

Condemned to Hope

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All eyes are fixed on the Headquarters of Damascus University, where President Bashar Al-Assad will address the nation from the University's Grand Auditorium at 11 AM tomorrow.

Dare I say I am optimistic? Have all the setbacks and disappointments of the past months (years, actually) left any space for optimism? Well, I am reminded by what the late Saadallah Wannous once said:

Nahnu Mahkoomoon Bil Amal - "We are condemned to hope."

Update: I don't think anybody expected this tough speech from the President. He affirmed again that Syria is not in any way involved in the assassination of Hariri, although after the formation of a Syrian investigation committee, some concluded that certain Syrian officials were involved and that they will be "sacrificed" to avoid confrontation with the international community. No, it's "resistance or chaos," the President said. It seems people (e.g, me) who thought the government will try to confront the outside pressures by opening up the Syrian political space were just wrong. The government is not willing to take on major political reform at this time. My opinion? I feel as confused as ever. The shameful truth is that again, I have nothing to say but the old helpless Allah yestor.

Friends of Syria

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Show your support at www.friendsofsyria.com :

The people of Syria are caught in a complex political game outside of their control. Having suffered for decades from internal oppression and external threats, they now stand powerless in the face of the Bush administration's latest campaign to change the Middle East, according to its own interests only.

Friends of Syria wish to show our solidarity and support, and let the world know that Syria does not stand alone. If you are a friend of Syria, now is the time to show your support. Please add your name to the List of Supporters.

Friends of Syria

  • Friends of Syria wish to show our solidarity and support, and let the world know that Syria does not stand alone. If you are a friend of Syria, now is the time to show your support.

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