“Why Syria Will Not Get the Golan Back” by Landis

Over the next week, Syria Comment will post two essays on the peace process. This week I will argue why Syria may not get the Golan back from Israel. Next week I will argue why it may.

Why Syria Will Not Get the Golan Back: Why Israel and the Arabs will continue at War
By Joshua Landis
February 28, 2009, Syria Comment

Jeffrey Feltman

Jeffrey Feltman

Syria’s ambassador in Washington met with State Department officials in Washington for the first time since 2005 on Thursday. Well, the first “polite” meeting. Imad Moustapha was ordered to the State Department in April to listen to a briefing about U.S. intelligence showing that Syria had secretly constructed a nuclear reactor based on a North Korean design. (Israel destroyed the alleged reactor in 2007.) “It was nothing productive,” an embassy spokesman explained. “It was the same old policy of dictating to us.”

The meeting this week between Imad Moustapha and Jeffrey Feltman, the US’s new Acting Assistant Secretary of State, was reportedly polite and meant to discuss a broad array of issues that divide the two countries. All the same, it is not clear how polite or whether the negotiating will get very far because both sides mistrust and misinterpret each other profoundly. Hillary Clinton’s announcement Thursday that“It is too soon to say what the future holds,” underscores this problem. State Department spokesman Robert Wood said on Friday, “there will be no normalization of ties with the Damascus regime until it meets key American demands, including an end to “interference in Lebanese issue issue,” Wood stressed that there are certain principles which Washington will not abandon.

“We felt it was important to communicate our concerns directly and we shall see how the Syrians will respond to it, including the interference on Lebanese internal affairs and their support for terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah,”

Imad Moustapha, however, was up beat and told reporters on Thursday that the talks were “very constructive.” He expects there to be more meetings in the coming months.

“We believe that this meeting has explored possibilities between Syria and the United States to engage on a diplomatic and political level and also to discuss all issues of mutual concern,” the ambassador said. “We think this is a first step and we believe there will be many further meetings.”

The barriers standing in front of a successful peace process are many. First, the debilitating imbalance of power between Syria and Israel stands out above all others.  Second, the US is not an impartial or neutral mediator, but a lawyer for Israel. Third, underlying these problems are the radically different world-views of each side and deep mistrust for each other, due to decades of demonization and warfare. Building trust under such conditions is extremely difficult, especially if it is to be built by the placing a long list of pre-conditions on dialog

Mistrust

An example of mistrust: One State Department official explained to me Wednesday that Syria is holding back appointing an ambassador to Lebanon until the US appoints one to Damascus. This would erode trust, he explained, because Syria had already promised the French it would appoint the ambassador in exchange for Sarkozi’s public embrace of Assad. The implication was clear; the US believes Syria is being a “rug merchant” and double dealing on the Lebanese ambassador issue.

Why would Syria do this? Syrian officials have been saying for over a month that there would be an American ambassador appointed to Damascus by the end of February. This has yet to happen. It is hard to know how each side measures its quid pro quo’s.

Balance of Power

Damascus faces an impossible problem in negotiating with Washington because of its profound relative weakness. The US and Israel work hand and glove to keep Syria weak economically,militarily and diplomatically. The US has helped Israel to bomb Syrian military installations, assassinate HIzbullah and Hamas operatives in Syria, and by designating anti-israeli militias and states as terrorist organizations. A panoply of economic sanctions are also martialed to Israel’s advantage. Israel is incomparably stronger than Syria and getting more so all the time.

Syria stands almost no reasonable chance of getting back the Golan Heights occupied by Israel in 1967 unless Washington makes a clear division between its own interests and those of Israel. Washington should not act as Israel’s lawyer and body guard, which it does today. Instead it must help rectify the terrible imbalance of regional power which allows — in fact encourages — Israel to thumb its nose at international law and continue to annex and settle its neighbors’ land.

Washington has imposed such an imposing list of sanctions, privations, and legal impositions on Syria over the last few decades that Syria cannot hope to negotiate with Israel as an equal. Many of the laws proscribing Syria can be reversed only by congressional vote, which will not be forthcoming unless Syria abandons its allies.

The best example of Syria’s losing battle to rectify the balance of power between it and Israel is the recent report by the IAEA on the indications that Syria was trying to develop nuclear power. This report was made possible by Israel’s illegal bombing with US support of a Syrian military installation in September 2007. Neither the UN nor Europeans objected to Israel’s illegal bombing. Because of the UN sanctioned bombing of Syria — the UN refused to take action against the bombing — the US can now refer Syria to the UN’s Security Council for sanctions unless inspectors are allowed full privileges to scour Syria’s military installations and catalog it efforts at military improvement. Israel will probably gain access to these reports, assisting its efforts to destroy Syria’s attempts to alter its losing balance of power.

At the same time as helping to destroy Syria’s efforts to develop nuclear and advanced technologies, the US helps Israel to improve its own advantages. It transfers advanced missile and weapon technology to Israel. It also protects Israel from any censure by the UN for developing a full panoply of nuclear capabilities.

Practically all of Syria’s friends and allies have been designated as “terrorist” organizations or rogue countries and criminalized accordingly. In the meantime, Israel is protected from international efforts to stop its settlement of and expropriation of Palestinian and Syrian territory. This is a tremendous help to Israel. Israelis understand that they can “play” the US; knowing that no president will dare cross them.

The only reason Israel re-opened indirect negotiations with Syria last year is because of its fear of Iran and Hizbullah. The US has done everything in its power to eliminate these two compelling incentives to negotiate, all the while stating that it encourages negotiations. This contradiction is apparent to Syria and convinces it that the US is not serious about helping Syria to regain the Golan or to encourage the final application of international law on borders.

When the State Department insists that Syria must give up all support for Hizbullah and Hamas before gaining US support for negotiations or engagement, Syria can only understand this as a demand to surrender. ‘Non-interference in Lebanon” means helping to disarm Hizbullah and allowing pro-US and Israeli Lebanese to gain the upper hand there.

Were Syria to actually cut relations with Hizbullah, Hamas and Iran before negotiating with Israel, there would be no negotiations. Israel would have won. It would have no incentive to give up the Golan. As Netanyahu has stated many times, “the Syrian border with Israel has been Israel’s safest for 35 years.” Syria can only pressure Israel across the Lebanese border or by supporting Palestinian resistance. Once these fronts are quite, Israel will have the peace it demands – but without making painful concessions on the Golan.

Step by Step Diplomacy will not Work

The US is playing a difficult game with Syria. It insists on making Syria pay for every diplomatic concession with an equal concession of its own. The problem with this chit-for-chit game is that Syria has few chits to play. Yes, Syria can reopen the American school it closed a few months ago. It can once again agree to issue visa’s to Fulbright professors and American scholars. It can allow Amid-East and other State-Department funded organizations back into Syria. It can let out a few political prisoners, such as Michel Kilo, but these small tokens will quickly be exhausted. The US has a rich array of sanctions and privations it has placed on Syria that it can lift one at a time for many years. Syria has nothing of comparable worth, save support for Hizbullah, Lebanese sovereignty (which, to America, is practically the same thing as disarming Hizbullah) and support for Hamas. These cards absolutely necessary for successful negotiations over the return of the Golan. Syria cannot give them up before getting back the Golan, as the US and Israel are demanding.

Syria cannot trust the US. Even if US diplomats and politicians assure Assad that they will help Syria get back the Golan if it shows good faith by giving up Hizbullah and ending support for Hamas, Syria cannot bank on such promises. The US has demonstrated no ability to force such concessions from Israel since Eisenhower pressured it to give up the Sinai following the 1956 Suez Crisis. Bush the father had to cave on the issue of halting settlement expansion. Clinton failed to get Barak to give up all the Golan in 2000, a expectation that led Hafiz al-Assad to travel to Geneva to meet with Clinton.

How will the Obama administration square its contradictory policy demands: one, that it wants Israel-Syria peace; and two, that Syria must cut relations with Hizbullah and Hamas prior to engagement for such a peace?

Israelis argue that they cannot trust Syria to break with Hizbullah, Hamas and Iran once Syria has gotten back the Golan. In fact they are not even convinced that “flipping” Syria is worth the Golan.  Syria will not trust Israel to give back the Golan once Syria has broken with its allies. In fact, Syria does not believe it should have to break with its allies to get back its rightful territory.

What is clear, however, is that Israel will not offer the Golan to Syria unless the US helps restore the skewed balance of power between Israel and Syria. Secretary of State Clinton has promised that the US will demand that Syria give up its bargaining cards before sitting down at the table. Obama in his interview of al-Arabiyya stated that “Israel’s security is paramount” to the US. He underlined this promise by vocalizing US support for Israel’s Gaza invasion.  Israel was made to pay no price for invading Gaza, just as it paid no price for invading Lebanon in 2006, or bombing Syria in 2007. These freebe operations have convinced Israelis that they do not have to make concessions or compromise with their enemies. The confirmation that war works for Israel can be found in elections earlier this month. Israelis moved squarely to the right. They know that war works; the two state solution no longer has to be entertained, and that the US will side with Israel when it decides to use force rather than diplomacy. For these reasons, it is very difficult to envisage a scenario in which Syria will actually get back the Golan. Yes, there will be talks and plenty of discussions and process, but no peace.

[END]

See Richard Haass’ Newsweek article: Obama Should Talk To Syria Now:

….It may be difficult to make peace with Syria, but it will be all but impossible to make peace in the region without it. President Obama correctly views dialogue as a tool, not a reward. It is time to put the tool to use, and to see what can be built.

Also See Aluf Benn in Haaretz: “Can Israel make peace with Syria without leaving Golan?” This is important as it may reflect Netanyahu’s approach.

On the eve of the election, while visiting the Golan and planting a tree for Tu Bishvat (Hebrew Arbor Day), Netanyahu declared that, “Gamla will not fall again” and “the Golan will remain in our hands.” According to him, “For 35 years this has been the quietest border we have because we are on the Golan, not below it.” On other occasions, he has declared that withdrawal from the Heights would turn it into “an Iranian base.” He sees the indirect negotiations Prime Minister Ehud Olmert conducted with the Syrians as having offered concessions without recompense, as a useless move that served only to extricate Syrian President Bashar Assad from international isolation. An agreement that would include only a limited withdrawal, however, in which Israel would “remain on the Golan,” does not contradict Netanyahu’s principles.

The following is a small portion of a recent email interchange I had with a military analyst who was tasked with gaming US negotiations with Syria:

Analyst

I am thrilled about our new approach to diplomacy. But we have to be VERY careful with Syria. I genuinely believe Bashar wants to leave the dark side- but I think he believes he is in the cat-bird seat and will get more than he’ll have to give. With Syria’s record, that’s not acceptable.
If I am terrible off track, please let me know!

Analyst on the Hariri tribunal

The analysts I have spoken with here agree that the Tribunal will not find enough evidence to implicate Bashar. They might be able to implicate some Syrian intel officers who Syria won’t turn over the Tribunal. So either way it is sticky. But I am not so sure nothing will be found on Bashar. The Saudis hate Bashar and have already accused Syria of 30 years of political assassinations- including Hariri- and of fermenting turmoil in the region. What if they are able to provide information? (Which they might do if Bashar does not cooperate and pull back on his support to resistance groups and move away from Iran.) If the west is deep in its courtship of Bashar, this could all prove very embarrassing and we’d have to do a 180. From a Red Team perspective, that is what I am writing on.

Landis replies:

I think Syria sees things quite differently. You write:

I genuinely believe Bashar wants to leave the dark side- but I think he believes he is in the cat-bird seat and will get more than he’ll have to give. With Syria’s record, that’s not acceptable.

Syria, of course, does not believe it exists on the “dark side.” It believes America exists on the “dark side” because of its support for Israel’s dispossession of the Palestinians, responsibility for the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis, filling Syria with Palestinian and Iraqi refugees, and support for Israeli’s recent killings in Lebanon and Gaza.

The failure to understand each others’ point of view is a fundamental problem. Both sides have demonized the other and believe that they are blameless and acting honorably when they kill people. Syria believes that it has protected its people from civil war as both Iraq and Lebanon failed to do, or the loss of a state, as the Palestinian leadership failed to do. Syria remains independent, free from terrorism, a defender of “Arab rights,” a regional power — all things that make Syrians proud. Of course they have sacrificed for this in low economic preformance and diplomatic isolation, but, they are not without pride and righteousness.

Syria may believe it has some good cards to play, but it believes that the US and Israel will cheat it because Syria is weak – and Syrians are only too conscious of their military weakness. They must depend on their alliances with Hizbullah, Hamas, and Iran to make up for their own military weakness.

Syria worries that Washington will demand its long list of concessions from Syria and will be unable or unwilling to force Israel to deliver the Golan. This is what happened the last time when Hafiz believed he had the promise only to discover in Geneva that it was not true and Clinton would be a “rug merchant.”

In fact Americans do not know and cannot say with any confidence that they can deliver the Golan.

Iran, Hizbullah, and Hamas are crucial levers to Syria in negotiating with Israel which is so much stronger than Syria. The US wants Syria to abandon them before sponsoring Golan talks. Syria will not do this because it feels certain that Israel and the US only want to divide and conquer – separate it from its allies so it can isolate and destroy it.

As for whether the Saudis have any evidence on Syria that they have held back, I don’t know about such things.

Comments (80)


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51. jad said:

Bashman,
Thank you for explaining your points, it’s much better when people referring to something with some explanations.
I still think the comment language you wrote sounded can easily be interpreted as a sectarian when identifying one religious as unable to make peace, I appreciate the clarification.

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March 2nd, 2009, 9:13 pm

 

52. Elie Elhadj said:

Dear Norman,

Muslims of different persuasions find in the Quran, often on the same subject, the inspiration that suit their inclinations. Moderate Muslims, the great majority among Muslims, choose the peaceful and the tolerant Quranic verses. Islamists, a minority among Muslims, focus on the intolerant verses. Jihadists, a minority among Islamists, concentrate not only on the intolerant verses, but also on the verses that urge jihad and violence. For specifics, you might wish to look-up “Apologists and Propagandists”:
http://daringopinion.com/Islam–Apologists-and-Propagandists.php

Wahhabi Saudi Arabia adheres to the extremist parts of Islam. Wahhabism is based on the teachings of a ninth-century scholar, Ahmad Bin Hanbal (d. 855), the most orthodox among the four surviving Sunni rites. Due to its extremism, only 2% of world’s Sunnis are followers, mainly in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan (the Taliban) plus indeterminate number among some of the tens of millions of Muslims who had worked in Saudi Arabia over the past three decades and those who continue to work there. The rest of the world’s one billion Sunnis follow the other three surviving rites, Hanafite, Malikite, and Shafeite.

The Saudi government manifests its Wahhabi agenda through enforcing the Wahhabi way of life in, among others, education, radio and television, Shari’a laws and court system, denying women many of the rights that men have, and in obtrusive brigades of the religious police. You raised the issue of education.

The Saudi educational curriculum is overwhelmingly skewed toward subjects pertaining to Wahhabi Islam. Of the sixteen core subjects that comprise the curriculum of the twelfth grade in Saudi high schools, nine are on Islam and related studies. The teaching of philosophy is prohibited.

Starting with the first grade, according to the Center for Religious Freedom of Freedom House with the Institute for Gulf Affairs (2006), children are taught that Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims are destined to ‘hellfire.’ As the children grow up, the same message is honed more explicitly. In the ninth grade, students are taught “in apocalyptic terms that violence toward Jews, Christians, and other non-believers is sanctioned by God.” Tenth graders are taught that, “in law, the life of non-Muslims is worth a fraction of that of ‘free Muslim men.” Eleventh graders are taught, “If one comes to a place where there is a mixture of Muslims and ‘infidels,’ one should offer a greeting intended for the Muslims.” The eleventh graders are also taught that, “Muslims do not yield to Christians and Jews on a narrow road out of honor and respect.” Twelfth graders cap their high school years by learning that the spread of Islam through jihad is a religious duty and that jihad in the way of God “is the summit of Islam.” Eighteen-year-old students learn that Islam “arose through jihad and through jihad was its banner raised high.” They are also lectured that jihad “is one of the noblest acts, which brings one closer to God, and one of the most magnificent acts of obedience to God.” Outside schools, the public discourse reinforces those ideas.

Three of the eight Saudi universities are dedicated to Islamic studies. In 2000, 4,500 university graduates specialized in Islamic studies. In comparison, Syria, a country of a similar indigenous population at that time, produced 600 university graduates in Islamic studies. The profile of Saudi university graduates reflects the type of the jobs in demand in the labor market: teachers of Wahhabism, judges, jurists, and so on.

Elie

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March 2nd, 2009, 9:42 pm

 

53. Elie Elhadj said:

Dear Jad,
Thanks for your kind words.

Kindly note that what I said is this: “every companion of the Prophet who reported his sayings and actions were all Arabs.”
Said differently, every companion of the Prophet who WAS QUOTED by Bukhari and in the other five canonical Hadith collections was an Arab. I did not say that Bukhari was an Arab.

Bukhari is regarded as the most authoritative among the collectors. He produced around 7500 sayings (traditions). The other five collectors were not far behind Bukhari in the number of saying that they collected. A close second in importance is Muslim Bin Al-Hajjaj (d. 875) whose collection contains 7,563 traditions. The remaining four collectors are: Ibn Majah (d. 886); with 4,341 traditions, Abi Dawood (d. 888); with 5,274 traditions, Al-Tirmithi (d. 892); with 3,956 traditions, and Al-Nasai (d. 915); with 5,761 traditions.

Hope that this is helpful

Regards,
Elie

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March 2nd, 2009, 10:05 pm

 

54. ehsani2 said:

Dear elie,

I always thought that religion-related jobs are most recession proof. Your note on saudi graduates confirm my suspicion. Syrians reading your comment may get an idea now and become part of the tiny 600 group of students bound for religion-related jobs.

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March 2nd, 2009, 10:24 pm

 

55. majedkhaldoun said:

Some of Bukhari hadiths collections are wrong, and canot be part of Islam.
the other people you mentioned were student of Bukhari.
At the time Bukhari and the others explain Quran,there were few people knew how to read,that is why there are several mistakes in explaining Quran,new explanations are needed,and correct the previous ones.

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March 2nd, 2009, 11:47 pm

 

56. norman said:

Elie,

Reading your note makes me sure that the US attacked the wrong country after 9/11 , They should have got rid of the abscess that is causing periodic septicemia , (( KSA )).

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March 2nd, 2009, 11:49 pm

 

57. kingcrane jr said:

Joshua,
At the end of the thread, you mention “analyst’s” opinion that Bashar should get out of the dark side. Once again, comparaison n’est pas raison; in the Star wars trilogy, the only individual who gets out of the dark side is Luke Skywalker’s dad, Darth Vador (born Anakin Skywalker), thus rescuing his son Luke, and dying immediately afterwards. My opinion is, however, that there is no dark or light side; the color is in the eye of the beholder. And history, because it is always written by the winners of armed conflicts, will give biased Faux colors to winners and losers alike. I ponder if the Mongols, with their amazing military attributes, and despite the fact that their leaders were unsatiable killers, had won at Ain Jalut, and proceeded to conquer all of Europe, then the Americas: they would be portrayed today as the “good guys” and their victims as the “bad guys” ALL INFERENCES TO RECENT OR CURRENT EVENTS, SUCH AS SABRA, SHATILA, OR GAZA, ARE PURELY LEFT TO THE READERS…

Alex,
I watched the video; this is hilarious; the guy thinks he is Joe Pesci; he used the f–k and the s–t word numerous times; he is stupid; his first question “if you support the Mahdi militia, raise your hand” proves his IQ is less than 80…

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March 3rd, 2009, 4:47 am

 

58. Elie Elhadj said:

To: EHSANI2
Saudia’s way of life requires around 4,500 Islamic studies graduates annually. Syria’s society needs 600. Thus, the demand for Sharia related jobs in Saudia is approximately eight times as big as that of Syria, which gives us an idea of how hugely different the way of life in those two countries (same population size) are! If the supply of Sharia graduates in Syria exceeds society’s demand for such jobs, there would be unemployment among the ranks of Syria’s Sharia graduates. So, EHSANI2, do not worry about Syrian students being attracted to Sharia studies to secure future employment. Syria’s society in its tolerant religious outlook will ensure that the demand for Sharia jobs is under control.

To: Majedkhaldoun
You are absolutely correct. Thanks for bringing the important issue of historicity of the Hadith. As you recommended, you might like to know that Turkey’s Department of Religious Affairs has already commissioned a team of theologians at Ankara University’s School of Theology to carry out a fundamental revision of the Hadith. An adviser to the project says some of the sayings can be shown to have been invented hundreds of years after the Prophet Muhammad died, to serve the purposes of contemporary society.
On the historicity of the Hadith, may I suggest that you read “A Turkish Martin Luther?!”:
http://daringopinion.com/Islam–A-Turkish-Martin-Luther-!.php

To: Norman
Looking forward, I would say that to fight terrorism, not only must the material and the financial infrastructure of jihadism be destroyed, but also the religious foundation upon which jihadism rests, starting with Wahhabism. To eliminate a terrorist cell or two or a hundred or a thousand cells will fail to root out terrorism.
For more on this, you might wish to read: “Saudi Islam, 9/11, and Further Dangers”:
http://daringopinion.com/Saudi-Arabia–Saudi-Islam%2C-9-11%2C-and-Further-Dangers.php

Elie

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March 3rd, 2009, 8:43 am

 

59. Joe M. said:

Alex,
How is the relationship between Syria and Libya these days? I wonder why they are not closer?

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March 3rd, 2009, 9:56 am

 

60. why-discuss said:

Shai

I agree with you that the mantra “Existential threat” is for public comsumption. Yet if Iran is cleared from the pending accusations of developing nuclear weapon, Israeli leaders might be isolated in their attempts to demonize it and present it as a threat to the world.
This is why I am afraid the Mossad may soon organize some ‘terrorist” attacks in a western country they can pin on Iran, Hezbollah, Syria or Palestinians just to shake up the western countries who are becoming too sympathetic to Iran and the Palestinians: Israel must constantly justify that Iran and Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria are terrorists.
I won’t be surprised to see a flurry in the jewish media of wild accusations as soon as the US moves closer to Iran.

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March 3rd, 2009, 12:14 pm

 

61. Shami said:

Elie El Hadj what was true 30 years ago is no more valid nowadays,the syrian society in 2009 is by far more conservative and religious than the saudi one.
If the saudi women were not obliged to be veiled you would see less veiled women in Saudia Arabia than in Syria.
Today 90% of Syrian womena are veiled ,even in the richest districts of Damascus we see a majority of veiled women.
I think the number of the veiled women is a good indicator to estimate the weight of religion on the people mind.

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March 3rd, 2009, 1:44 pm

 

62. Qifa Nabki said:

Joshua

This looks very bleak indeed.

I guess there’s only one thing to say.

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March 3rd, 2009, 1:59 pm

 

63. Shami said:

Elie el hadj ,you should avoid to categorize the muslims as you are doing.
And the Talibans are not Hanbali nor Wahhabites,they are Hanafis and Deobandi Sufis.
These 4 mazhabs are not as hermetic toward each other than some people think ,for example being Hanafi or even Shafi’i Ashaari in aqida and being Hanbali in fiqh is very common.

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March 3rd, 2009, 2:09 pm

 

64. jad said:

Is “Shami” the new name of old “Karim”?
It seems that you upgrade your numbers of veiled women these days, from 85% couple months ago to 90% today, your numbers are as good as the stocks market.
with your rate, couple months from now your magic numbers will reach 100% with a need of ‘m6aw3een’ in every Syrian city, town and village.

“Elie el hadj ,you should avoid to categorize the muslims as you are doing.”

Shekhna Karim, Is is 7aram or Forbidden by a Saudi fatwa to categorize Islamic different schools?

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March 3rd, 2009, 3:37 pm

 

65. Shami said:

Jad efendi;be nice 85 or 90 we are in the same range of percentage ,it only means that the overwhelming majority of the syrian women are veiled,in the meannwhile ,i did a quick survey in Al Malki ,i was surprised by the number of veiled women in the syrian bourgoisie.Tell us about your own observation.

Jad the problem with Elie is that he categorizes the muslims as follow ,those who belong to mazhab of Ahmad Ibn Hanbal ,the dangerous extremists and thanks God they are 2% vs the others who are the moderates.This is not academically valid.

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March 3rd, 2009, 5:16 pm

 

66. jad said:

Karim, sorry, Shami, or whatever you want your name to be:
You wiped out a whole 5% of Syrian women population with your makeup percentage.
I told you before and will tell you again, don’t make up numbers out of your observation of one area, how about me telling you that 95% of Alquerda7a are not veiled does that count?
When you make up numbers don’t sign your comments with this funny note
“This is not academically valid.”

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March 3rd, 2009, 5:27 pm

 

67. Alia said:

Jad,

I agree with Shami on the significant increase in religiosity in Syria over the past couple of decades, as well as the veiling of women, their attendance in groups of religious instruction given by other women of more or less definable qualifications, their previously unheard of presence in the Mosques etc…

Dr. El Hadj,

Again with Shami, although Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Wahhab adopted the belief of the Hanbalis, he rejected Taqleed (imitation) but did build his following on the highly controversial Sheikh Ibn Taymayah. Subsequent Wahhabis deepened this controversy…they do not recognize the 4 sects of Sunnism, not even that of the Hanbalis and in turn are not considered Sunni Muslims as descendants of Hanbalites would be- they are rather considered by the majority of ahl-sl-Sunnah as modern day Kharijites.

http://www.livingislam.org/n/nkhar_e.html

Also would you kindly refer me to a source on the national representation in the Hajj population. Your cited percentage of 60 % Arabs is very intriguing. Thanks.

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March 3rd, 2009, 5:33 pm

 

68. jad said:

Alia, I’m not arguing with Kareem/Shami, my point is about stating numbers and percentage out of his own observation as facts, which doesn’t reflect any academic based numbers except his own imagination.
I agree that veiled women numbers increased in the last decade, however, that only happened in cities not in rural areas where lots of Syrian lives as well, so when someone like Kareem/Shami comes with such numbers in most of his comments without a base, that is where I have to correct.
Nothing personal, just asking commentators to be more objective, to be real and to stop living in their own closed one sided world. It’s not healthy.

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March 3rd, 2009, 6:48 pm

 

69. Nour said:

Alia,

There is no doubt that religious fundamentalism has been on the rise not only in Syria, but in the region in general. But to claim that 90% of Syrian women are veiled is a bit extreme I think, and to argue that Saudi women are less religious than Syrian women is also quite an outlandish statement, as it is not based on any scientific study but rather on the speculative perception of a single individual.

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March 3rd, 2009, 9:09 pm

 

70. Shami said:

Alia ,
The site http://www.livingislam.org contain interesting articles written by G F Haddad a Sheikh of Lebanese Christian origin , he studied Islam in Damascus.
The articles are instructive but we should take into account that they represent the opinion of traditionalist Sufis who share a a radical anti Salafi stance.Every party has its extremists and its moderates… both Salafis and Sufis are the two major trends of Sunnism which should not be limited to the 4 schools of thought,the door must be open to other attempts of ishtihad,like the Wahhabiya and the Neo Mutazila.
There is an important development that took place in Saudi Arabia recently ,the Saudi council of Muslim scholars,the top religious body of the kingdom, is now expended to include Maliki ,Hanafi and Shaf’i members.
http://www.thenational.ae/article/20090215/FOREIGN/363075254/1133/SPORT

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March 3rd, 2009, 9:14 pm

 

71. jad said:

I post this before after Karim same comments couple months ago regarding Hijab.
I’ll post it again, it’s hilarious yet true.
Enjoy

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_5sbGWuqTOog/Rl_8rTMwVmI/AAAAAAAACe0/SLEqWGthN2Y/s1600-h/Syrian_Hijab.jpg

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March 3rd, 2009, 9:19 pm

 

72. Shami said:

Nour,such high percentage is not far from the reality ,without doubt the veil is more visible in Syria than in Turkey ,guess what says the scientific surveys in Turkey ,according to them 70% of turkish women cover their heads.In Turkey they also have Alevis(15%) whose women don’t wear headscarves.

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March 3rd, 2009, 9:48 pm

 

73. Shami said:

LOL Jad ,but your cartoon only shows the damascene versions.
In Aleppo we have among others :
http://farm1.static.flickr.com/171/403968369_5229d6ca9f_o.jpg

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March 3rd, 2009, 10:03 pm

 

74. jad said:

Karim Pasha, Just to prove that your comments are “fundamentally” superficial and extremely wrong:

Turkey Almanac:
(Religions: Islam (mostly Sunni) 99.8%, other 0.2% (mostly Christians and Jews))

Turkey Wikipedia (Islam is the largest religion of Turkey. More than 99 percent of the population is Muslim, mostly Sunni. The Alevi community, a group of non-orthodox Muslims, make up 1–10 percent of the population. )
(1-10% not “15% and all of them doesn’t wear hijab”, have you ever been to any of the villages there? old women actually wear scarves

Syria Almanac: (Religions: Islam (Sunni) 74%; Alawite, Druze, and other Islamic sects 16%; Christian (various sects) 10%; Jewish (tiny communities in Damascus, Al Qamishli, and Aleppo))
Those numbers destroy the whole 90% you came with since 26% of Syrian society is not Sunni, even “if” 100% of Sunni women wear hijab its barley 74% not 90%

Where do you come with a statement as this:
(without doubt the veil is more visible in Syria than in Turkey?) as if it’s a competition of who wear the hijab more than others, does wearing a hijab make someone better Muslim than others? Very superficial comment
——————–
Back to the subject; I have no idea why you are getting somehow defensive, in your reply to Dr. Elhadg comments that “only 2% are extreme” You should be happy reading that not defensive.
Your other point was to prove to us that what Dr. Elhadg wrote about Syria is not true at the present time.
“So, EHSANI2, do not worry about Syrian students being attracted to Sharia studies to secure future employment. Syria’s society in its tolerant religious outlook will ensure that the demand for Sharia jobs is under control.”
Is a one religion Syria a better place for your taste Karim?
Do you prefer Saudi like society to be implanted in Syria Instead of the existing one?
What is making you so defensive and scared of any idea you read about multi-cultural multi-religions and tolerated Syrian society?
———————–
Nice pictures you have there; I think Aleppo needs a whole category by itself.

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March 3rd, 2009, 10:42 pm

 

75. Alia said:

Jad,

I was not even arguing the percentages. More instructive to me for example is the fact that in my own extended family the mothers and grandmothers were not veiled but their daughters in their 20s are; and more often than not are exerting a certain pressure on the older generation. Also the groupings, studying and reading of Qur’an in circles in neighborhoods that all did not exist when I was young. I could not quantify the changes…but they are significant.

The cartoons are adorable!!! and the Aleppo picture now, that is familiar and was more prevalent among a certain class of women/families I think; it was not necessarily related to religiosity. On a visit to KSA I saw Bedouin women with metal face masks- evidently they use them for protection from men :)

Shami,

I am familiar with the writings of Sheikh Gibril Haddad, he can be extreme in his opinions- but if you are willing to suspend judgment, you can learn a lot from his detailed rebuttals. yes, I read about the new Saudi developments, they are very mistaken in not involving the Shia who are abysmally mistreated in KSA. I am not interested in exclusions, unless we get over the Sunni-Shia divide things will continue to be chaotic. There are extremes on both sides.

Nour,

I do not interpret the veiling of women automatically as a symptom of rising fundamentalism. There are multiple motivations behind it.

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March 4th, 2009, 12:02 am

 

76. Shami said:

Alia ,i like Sheikh Haddad but i also respect Ibn Taymiyya,here is an interview with him.
He cites al-Dhahabi and Abu Ghudda(spiritual leader of the Ikhwan in Aleppo) among his favourite scholars.

http://www.livingislam.org/o/igfh_e.html

Abu Ghudda had rehabilitated Ibn Taymiyya in Syria and Imam Al Dhahabi was one of Ibn Taymiyya students.

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March 4th, 2009, 2:37 am

 

77. Elie Elhadj said:

Dear Alia,
The source is: “Hajj by the numbers”, Saudi Aramco World, May/June issue 2002, P. 27.
I calculated the subject % from the data in page 27.

Elie

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March 4th, 2009, 8:09 am

 

78. why-discuss said:

The veil for rich or poor?
In poor countries, and in main cities, it costs less to wear a white or a fashionable veil than to visit the “Kuafor”. This is also a reason not to ignore, when it comes to Syria, Lebanon, Egypt or Turkey.
In Iran it is mandatory so only rich women who can afford the kuafor complains about it.

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March 4th, 2009, 11:09 am

 

79. Shami said:

Elie,there is a quota assigned to each country that doesnt concern the inhabitants of saudi arabia ,so half or more of the piligrims are saudis.

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March 4th, 2009, 11:18 am

 

80. Elie Elhadj said:

To: Shami,
The number of Saudis in 2002, the year I used in my estimate, was 183,000 out of total pilgrims that year of 2.4 million, or 7.63% .

Elie

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March 4th, 2009, 2:30 pm

 

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