Syria’s Battle for the Hearts of the West, by S. Farah

By S. Farah for Syria Comment
(posted by Alex)
June 29th brings to a close a one-year celebration of the life of St Paul in most of the world. According to the BBC he is “undoubtedly one of the most important figures in the history of the Western world”. His conversion in Damascus forever changed the west, and firmly placed its cultural roots in Syria.

St. Paul was born a Syrian Jew; His conversion is an important part of the history of Syria. It is a true Damascene event. According to western and Christian traditions his conversion to Christianity happened on the road to Damascus where he experienced a vision after which he was temporarily blinded. He was then led by his companions blind to the straight street in Damascus. There it is said that St. Ananias the leader of the new Christian community of Damascus met him. St. Ananias then cured him of his blindness, and later baptized him in the Barada River. He then left the city through Bab Kisan. All these places including the house of St. Ananias are still preserved today and are living places of worship in Damascus.

Known as the apostle to the gentile, St. Paul is widely credited for spreading Christianity in the west. His teachings have deeply influenced western culture and traditions.

The “Road to Damascus” became a widely used metaphorical reference to mean a conversion of thought and a change of heart and mind.

Christian and Islamic symbols at a souvenir shop in Maaloula, Syria

Christian and Islamic symbols at a souvenir shop in Maaloula, Syria

St. Paul’s message extends beyond religion to universal fraternity and equality for all people. He famously declared, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one”. His words continue to influence and inspire 2000 years later. Of all the gospel and philosophers, President Obama chose the teachings of St. Paul for his inaugural speech when he said, “…in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.”

This message of universal equality and coexistence is part of the history of Syria. When Islam, also a religion with a universal message, first entered Syria Muslims were welcomed by the locals who never thought that Islam might be a separate religion. Islam’s acceptance of the Old and New Testaments, its esteem for Jewish prophets, and its veneration of Jesus and Mary made it familiar to the Christian inhabitants. And when the new Muslim caliphs made Damascus their capital, the Christians were instrumental in the administration of the new empire as it spread the new faith eastward. Muslims and Christians shared places of worship, and the caliphs were known to spend their retreat in remote Christian monasteries.  The Umayyad mosque in the center of Damascus is a great example of this intertwined relation and shared history between Christians and Muslims. In its center is the shrine of John the Baptist and on its southeastern corner is the minaret of Jesus, decorated with the Jewish Star. It is where Muslims believe that Jesus will return on judgment day.

Syria continued to be a welcoming home for all. At the end of the 15th century, Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal found Syria to be welcoming refuge where they melded into the broader culture. Other places the Spanish and Portuguese Jews went, they held onto their customs and lived apart. In Damascus and Aleppo, they became like the older Jewish community of Syria, with everyone speaking Arabic. Syria remains a refuge and a home for all regardless of ethnicity or religion.

Today the world in general and the Middle East in particular are sinking deeper into extremism.

The story of St Paul and Syria’s rich shared heritage makes Syria a vital link between the Christian west and the Muslim east. This history is a treasure trove for Syria as it reaches out to the world.

Syria today needs the west, and the US in particular to endorse its strategic regional role to foster and promote regional stability.

To this end, Syria needs a moral rallying cry. It needs to focus its message to reflect its core values, to connect to the west on a visceral level.

The West, including America, should also proactively and urgently engage with Syria based on their shared cultural and religious roots. As Syria continues to reform its political System it will undoubtedly emerge as the unrivaled model for the future of the Middle East.

Comments (40)

Majhool said:

“…to endorse its strategic regional role to foster and promote regional stability”

Really? Last time I checked the only strategy the regime had is to stay in power, maybe that’s what you mean with “stability”?

“To this end, Syria needs a moral rallying cry. It needs to focus its message to reflect its core values, to connect to the west on a visceral level”

Why is a moral cry all that important? Why not start by empowering the Syrian people to do better and assume their natural role at home and beyond, by allowing political parties and enforcing rule of law?

Oh wait you said, “as Syria continues to reform its political System” This suggest that Syria has already started political reform! That is far from the truth…this regime undermined every aspect of political freedom in syria.

We already have coexistence in Syria between Muslims and Christians, what we need is not to sell it abroad to legitimize a dictatorship, what we need is reform at home.

June 5th, 2009, 5:44 am


Alex said:

“Really? Last time I checked the only strategy the regime had is to stay in power”

Can you explain how and where you checked? how did you realize that surely the only strategy they had was staying in power?

“We already have coexistence in Syria between Muslims and Christians, what we need is not to sell it abroad to legitimize a dictatorship, what we need is reform at home.”

We need both … we need reform of what is not good at home, and we need to tell the world about what is good.

June 5th, 2009, 6:49 am


love you alex said:

This article highlights that Syria is the root of Obama’s spiritual inspiration. Damascus would have been the natural place for his speech about relation between the christian west and Islam.
Syria is where Islam can find its true roots, and offer an antidote the Salafite ideology. This article is a great contrast between what Syria stands for, a home for all, and what Israel is, a home for one people, a modern day ghetto.

June 5th, 2009, 8:49 am


Joshua said:

Dear S. Farah,

A great article. Thanks. Joshua

June 5th, 2009, 10:59 am


Akbar Palace said:

Syria’s Battle for the Hearts of the West


Thanks for posting the above article, but I find the title is worded strangely.

Please describe exactly what this “battle for the Hearts of the West” is?

Near as I can tell, Syria is still strongly in favor of close relationships with jihadist organizations and Iran. Perhaps this “battle” is being fought deep underground with pillows and nerf balls, far from the roving eye of the western news media.

June 5th, 2009, 11:36 am


norman said:

Thank you Miss Farah,

This article is a compliment to Islam , Syria and the Syrian people , I can not see how anybody could be offended by it ,

That explain why president Obama , did not mention the Christians of Syria , he knows that their rights are protected there As Arabs and Christians and Syrians .

June 5th, 2009, 2:36 pm


offended said:

A day after US President Barack Obama reiterated his call to stop settlement activity during a speech in Cairo, defiant settlers continued to erect illegal structures in the West Bank, building a new outpost on Friday morning between Migron and Kohav Ya’akov.

Settlers dedicate a Torah scroll in the West Bank outpost of Maoz Esther, which has been dismantled and rebuilt several times in recent weeks

At the outpost, named Oz Yehonatan, the settlers built a wooden structure they mockingly called the “Obama Hut,” saying it was a sign of appreciation for the US president for his actions that had led to a dramatic rise in the number of outposts.

Overnight Thursday, settlers and right-wing activists once again rebuilt the illegal Maoz Esther outpost that was dismantled on Wednesday by security forces.

Among the structures erected was a synagogue in which activists placed a Torah scroll dedicated in the name of Yohonadav Hirschfield, who was killed in last year’s terror attack at Jerusalem’s Mercaz Harav Yeshiva

One of the activists said of Obama, “He’s an Arab Muslim and a gentile, he is fighting against the Jewish people and has declared that he will continue to do so. We already stated our intention to continue to build, no matter who is fighting us – Egypt, Germany or the US.”

Among the 200 activists that gathered at the Maoz Esther site was Hebron-Kiryat Arba Chief Rabbi Dov Lior, who explained why peace was impossible in the Middle East.

“It’s all illusions. With these savages, there was never peace, there is no peace and there will not be peace,” he said. “It’s not because we don’t want it, but because they are enemies of peace. We just have to hope that our entire country is cleared of terrorists, their supporters, their backers and their camels. They should all be sent to Saudi Arabia.”

June 5th, 2009, 3:05 pm


majid said:

I fail to see the relevance of St. Paul’s conversion in Damascus to a speech intended to reconcile the US with the Muslim World.

I do not believe Muslims, anywhere, would relate to St. Paul as a figure that can be used to address them in a reconciling manner. We do not need to continue to preach that Muslims and Christians have a lot in common. Mr. Obama’s mission was to address the Muslims from a setting that is most appropriate for such address. Choosing the ‘straight street’ as a venue for the speech as the writer of the article would have preferred would be considered by the Muslims as another crusade not different from Mr. Bush’s misuse of the word.

Some Syrian ‘intellectuals’ seem to be unable to understand that not all roads necessarily lead to Damascus. But they still want the world to follow that road even if it is the least appropriate!!

June 5th, 2009, 4:11 pm


Alex said:



1) Hizbollah: Supported by 98% of Lebanese Shia, supported by a majority of the Lebanese people, and supported by a majority of the Arab people

2) Hamas: Elected democratically in 2006 by the Palestinian people with a comfortable majority.

3) Iran: a Nation of 66 million people who consider Syria their closest and most trusted ally in the world.

And all three above are neighbors of Syria, just like Israel is a neighbor of Syria.

Israel is expecting Syria to become the enemy of Iran, half of Lebanon, half of Palestine, in order to gain its blessing.

Look at Israel today … your nation is paranoid about an Iranian threat … your politicians talk about it every day … many want to go to war with Iran … they say that Iran poses an existential threat to Israel.

Israel also went to war against Lebanon in 2006 … slaughtered 1400 people in Gaza in 2008 …

You advise Syria to join Israel against Iran? and Hizbollah .. and Iran’s friends among Iraqi Shia population …

You want Syria to live like Israel does … at war with all its neighbors.

Syria will seek the friendship of the United States IN ADDITION To its hard-earned friendships with Turkey, Iran, a majority of the Lebanese people, a majority of the Palestinian people, and according to the recent Zogbi poll .. a majority of the Arab people.

President Clinton said that the United States should seek to have “more friends and less enemies” … that’s exactly what Syria wants to do.

June 5th, 2009, 4:16 pm


majid said:

Hezbollah is not supported by the majority of the Arabs. It is not even supported by 1% of Arabs and I doubt it has more than 10% support among the Lebanese.

Let’s go back to the main article and draw attentions to some very important inaccuracies and misrepresentations.

The following statement from the main article cannot be supported by any facts or records:

“Muslims and Christians shared places of worship, and the caliphs were known to spend their retreat in remote Christian monasteries.

Monasticism is NOT permitted in Islam. Muslims are not allowed to worship in the same places as the Christians. In fact the Caliph Omar refused to pray in the Holy Sepulcher when he was invited to do so by the bishops after receiving the keys to Jerusalem. It seems that the writer of the article is not well informed about Muslim history and traditions.

June 5th, 2009, 5:18 pm


Observer said:

The only strategy is one of staying in power from Morocco to Bahrain. All you have to see are the rings of security perimeters around every city and locality.

In contrast to the father the son has abandoned the Arab cause for a Syria first modus operandi.

The regime does accomodate itself to the role of the beaten dog so that it does not allow for any change to happen.

I will believe in change when the state of emergency is lifted and the constitution is first established and then looked at critically again.

The rest is hogwash. I am sorry Alex, propaganda by either Obama or Arab heads of state does not go over well anymore.

June 5th, 2009, 6:36 pm


Alex said:

Dear Observer,

I am not “a regime propagandist” … I have been very critical of Syria’s corruption and bad management for example.

The statement I made that you seem to disagree with is that “staying in power” in NOT the ONLY strategy for “the regime”.

I assume you can understand exactly what I am saying.

If you still disagree, then you are saying that anything goes as long as the regime can stay in power.

I hope you know better.

Again, the latest Zogbi poll shows that Bashar was the most popular Arab leader this year … If Egyptians like him, then I guess he is not ONLY interested and working for his personal survival in power.

You know that Arabs are very suspicious of ALL their leaders .. you know that in 2005 (when Syria had the same policies like today) there was mostly ridicule for Syria … so, today’s popularity is not due to false pride in the Arab nationalism cause that Syria always championed, but it is due to a genuine belief that Assad is the most effective (or honest) Arab leader.

June 5th, 2009, 8:12 pm


trustquest said:

If Obama has had his speech in Damascus UN, what reaction we would we would have seen from regime or people, at least they would publish his speech in their media outlets, I wonder if commentators can tell me why Syrian regime is showing neutral reaction to the speech? BTW, don’t they suppose to advertize for Obama at least for changing policy regarding all the middle east policy ( like pulling from Iraq, asking and pressuring for stopping settlements, calling for peace talk, diplomacy instead of fighting …..) wasn’t that most of the demands of the Syrian regime, aren’t they working hard to have the US returning the US ambassador to Damascus, aren’t they proudly mentioning in their media about receiving some American Generals for talk about security, is there a missing link here?

Observer, you have my vote on the description hogwash on 11, it seems the saying that you can not have policy by dictation but by free discussion and free speech with a democratic tools.

Majed, I want to pay your attention that some Muslims are not strict about praying in the Chruch, a very religious friend of mine here in the US, usually he stops at Church’ building and request to pray so he wont miss the prayer time.

Hi Majhool, nice to see you around, you have been missed by some, I love variety and hate uniformity.

June 5th, 2009, 8:12 pm


Akbar Palace said:

“Syria’s Battle for the Hearts of the West” continues!:

VIENNA – The U.N nuclear agency on Friday reported its second unexplained find of uranium particles at a Syrian nuclear site, in a probe launched by suspicions that a remote desert site hit by Israeli warplanes was a nearly finished plutonium producing reactor.

Let us all give Dr. Bashar a rousing round of applause for his unmitigated success!

June 5th, 2009, 9:51 pm


t_desco said:

For the record:

Assassinat Hariri: revoilà la piste chiite
Par Georges Malbrunot le 25 mai 2009

Que dit le Spiegel, en citant des sources proches du Tribunal spécial pour le Liban (TSL), qui devra juger les assassins de Hariri? Que huit téléphones portables achetés le même jour à Tripoli au nord-Liban ont été activés six semaines avant l’attentat, et plus une seule fois après. Il ne s’agit pas d’un scoop, cette information figure en effet dans l’un des premiers rapports d’étape que la Commission d’enquête internationale transmit à l’ONU. (No; t_d)

En revanche, Spiegel apporte de nouveaux éléments sur deux points. D’abord que ces huit portables ont été très souvent en contact avec 20 autres téléphones, appartenant au « bras opérationnel » du Hezbollah. D’autre part, l’hebdomadaire allemand livre le nom du détenteur d’un de ces portables, Abd al-Magid Ghamloush, qui s’est volatilisé depuis longtemps.

Mais là-encore, son nom ne vient pas de sortir du chapeau d’un des nombreux limiers qui enquêtent depuis quatre ans sur cet assassinat. Ghamloush était connu en effet depuis longtemps de la Commission d’enquête, et de certains services de renseignements occidentaux.

Dès l’été 2006, le juge Jean-Louis Bruguière, qui enquêtait alors sur l’assassinat du journaliste franco-libanais Samir Kassir à Beyrouth, avait été mis au courant de cette piste chiite autour de Ghamloush par les Forces de sécurité intérieure (FSI), comme je l’indiquais dans Le Figaro du 19 août 2006.

Toute la question est de savoir quels sont les véritables liens entre Ghamloush et le Hezbollah ? Spiegel nous dit qu’il était en connexion avec un mystérieux Hajj Salim, qui commande une « unité des opérations spéciales » au sein du Hezbollah. D’autres estiment au contraire que Ghamloush a été membre « à un moment donné d’un service de sécurité du Hezbollah, mais que ce service dépendait directement de l’Iran et non pas de Hassan Nasralleh, le chef du Parti de Dieu ». (…)
Georges Malbrunot

(my emphasis)

June 5th, 2009, 9:55 pm


why-discuss said:

Thanks t_desco,
The following is interesting too..

Jamil al Sayyed is suing Mehlis in France for having blackmailed him in an attempt to have him implicate the Syrians. Jamil Al Sayed had recorded the conversation.
My opinion:
Mehlis indictment may seriously put doubts on the integrity of the German and UN justice system, here comes the Spiegel: The Syrian track is in a dead end, time to reactivate the Hezbollah track, then if it fails, it will be the Iranian track and maybe, depending on the political change of moods, the others.. Mossad, Salafists, Al Qaeda etc…

“Elle intervient au moment où le général Jamil al-Sayyed est à Paris pour la plainte qu’il a déposée devant la justice française contre le premier chef de la Commission d’enquête, le juge allemand Detlev Melhis, qui l’avait jeté en prison à l’été 2005, sur la foi d’un témoignage qui s’est avéré bidon. Ancien patron de la toute puissante Sureté générale, du temps de la main mise syrienne sur le Liban, le Gal Sayyed accuse Melhis et son adjoint, le commissaire Gerhard Lehmann, de lui avoir mis sur la table le marché suivant : « dites-nous que des Syriens sont impliqués dans l’attentat, et on vous relâche de prison ». Proposition déclinée par le Gal Sayyed… qui avait enregistré la conversation.”

June 5th, 2009, 11:19 pm


norman said:


Khalif Omar did not pray in the church , that was right , but he did not do that not because it was not permitted , He did not pray there , They asked him about that , he had the foresight and said that he did not want somebody at one day in the future to say that Khalif Omar prayed here therefore we want to make it a Mosque , that is the real Islam.

And that is my take,

June 6th, 2009, 1:41 am


majid said:

You are absolutely right Norman about Khalif Omar.

Muslims follow Khalif Omar’s behavior.

I just wanted to point out the many inaccuracies and misrepresentations in the main article. I hope you see the other points I raised which the author either overlooked on purpose or did not foresee.

Thank you for proving this point.

TQ, we can hardly consider US Muslims’ behavior a true representation of the Muslim world or even Syrian Muslims. They are trying their best to preserve their religion. So far they have done a good job.

June 6th, 2009, 1:59 am


Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:

Sari Nusseibah writes in his book about the Khalif Omar and he has the same version as Norman. The Nusseibah family has been responsible for bearing the key to the church since Omar conquered Jerusalem, so he knows what he’s saying…

June 6th, 2009, 2:02 am


Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:

Ms. Farah, Alex,

Syria indeed has been blessed with the gift of religious tolerance, compared with most of the world and definitely our region. It has also always keot its doors open to people under persecution, with the latest installment from Iraq a good reminder of the traditional humanitarian hospitality. The tradition of tolerance is inspiring at a time when religious-emotional rifts run deep. However at the same time religious tolerence is not a panacea in the modern world, and might be, in itself, already embedding the type of prejudices that all entrenched religious codes so often do. I would encourage the Syrian nation to consider how to translate the tolerance of the past into the tolerance of the future, which many times entails confronting religious traditions head on, even when they seem to offer a convenient status qou for most. For example, what does religious tolerance in Syria imply, or more importantly, *doesn’t* imply, in terms of promoting women’s rights? gays rights? political freedom? transparancy of governance? critical/atheistic views or new religions?

I’m always conflicted when I see a troica of Jewish, Muslim and Christian priests talking about co-existence. I think it’s great that they figure out how to tolerate each other. On the other hand I’m not sure any one of them, let alone all of them together, could tolerate me…

June 6th, 2009, 2:03 am


norman said:

The article intention was not to ask Muslims to relate to St Paul but for the West Christians to relate to Syria and Islam through st Paul , It was to show the tolerance of Islam and the Muslims of Syria ,

About Syrian intellectuals trying to have Syria as the only rout to the hearts and mind and everything else in the Mideast ,

Can you blame us , We are Syrian Arabs , What do you expect.

June 6th, 2009, 2:14 am


majid said:

The object of the speech is to address the Muslim world and not the West. Muslims would consider the choice of St. Paul as a symbol for addressing them offensive as I mentioned. It’ll be worse than the speech that Mr. Bush made referring to his war in Iraq as a crusade.

Besides, why do you want Mr. Obama to talk to the Muslim world through an intermediary figure like St. Paul? It would defeat the whole purpose of the speech!!

I’m sure Mr. Obama considered many venues for his speech before choosing Cairo. Mecca or Medina would have been perhaps the most appropriate for the speech and would have had the most dramatic effects. Dramatization is not the objective here, however, and we all know the other reasons why these two venues cannot be chosen.

In my opinion he made a very sound and wise choice.

June 6th, 2009, 2:38 am


norman said:


I do not disagree with you on Obama’s choice , Egypt is the biggest Arab state in population and with a Majority Muslims , I was talking about the Article making the case for Syria’s tolerance ,

By the way I do not think that president Obama could have had his speech in Mecca , Christians are not allowed there, Isn’t that the case?.

June 6th, 2009, 2:59 am


Hazem said:

What a great piece. Thanks Josh, Alex and S.Farah
I do not usually post comments but as a muslim syrian I would like to say that we are-as a nation and individuals- so proud of our christian traditions and christian brothers. As a syrian muslim I feel grateful to my fellow christian citizens of syria for all their contribution to our history.
We are one. Muslims, christians, or jews.
We are all Syrians

June 6th, 2009, 3:31 am


majid said:

Norman, I am glad that you finally agreed. Actually, Egypt is not only majority Muslim but it has a sizeable Christian community which is proportionally bigger than Syria’s. On the other hand, if Mr. Obama wanted to add dramatization to his speech he could have done it in Egypt as well. For example he could have chosen a place close to Ste Catherine’s monastery. You know that place is more acceptable even to the Muslims, and it has a symbolic value to the Jews as well being the place where Moses received his revelations. On that basis Muslims would not find any offense since Moses is holy to the Muslims whereas St. Paul has no significance from the Muslim’s point of view. But choosing Cairo University is more appropriate for the modern age since he intended to have an intellectual speech that has more relevance to the modern era. So on that basis it was a good choice.

You’re right about Mecca. But it is not impossible to come up with a fatwa to allow him inside. However, it is problematic because it will provide fuel to the extremists to attack the Saudi Government on that front. But as I said it can be done with minimum damage control.

June 6th, 2009, 4:04 am


Yazan said:

Muslim input & Historic perspective:
1- thank you Ms. Farah for a very good article
2- Caliph Omar, declined to pray in the Church upon concurring Jerusalem, out of fear, that future Muslim generations would convert that church to a mosque in respect to his memory. thus he was setting a good example of religious tolerance, like it should be practiced in Islam.
3- St paul is indeed pertinent to Muslims, and the west, after all he did exactly what the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) did 1400 years ago, i.e. was willing to challenge the old beliefs and status quo for what he thought were better ones. indeed most Muslims do not know of him, yet they should, and should be prompted to draw the obvious corollary.

June 6th, 2009, 4:28 am


Shami said:

Thank you S Farah,this liberal spirit that we inherited from our granparents must be preserved in the Arab world.Unfortunately ,the things are not going where we would like it go.
About the syrian jews it’s true that the aleppian jews were mostly of andalusian origin as for the jews of damascus ,it’s a very old syrian community,they are mostly babylonian damascene jews so they had different traditions.The aleppine jews had been for centuries the guardians of the famous codex of Aleppo,it’s said that the descendants of the jewish andalusian philosopher Musa ibn Maymoun(Lat:Maimonides) brought it from Cairo to Aleppo in the 14th-15th century.Aleppo also gave important jewish scholars.
Majid , muslim prayer in a church or any other place ,is allowed in Islam according to many scholars.
About the reaction of the Caliph Umar ,the story tell us what Norman told above and not because it was forbidden for him to pray in the church.
About monasticism ,it had been a matter of dispute in Islam,the opinions are variable,because of the ambiguity of the Quranic verses.
The opinion of Ibn Taymiyya on this matter was not favorable :
Jean Michot former professor at Oxford has published a translation to french of his fatwa,it should be read only by people acquainted with Islamic theology,especially Ibn Taymiyya and good knowledge of medieval history .Of course,Ibn Taymiyya’s opinion is marginal as it must be understood in a context of an islamic world in danger of being annhilated by the mongols.Anyway despite this negative stance.Ibn Taymiyya refused the liberation of the muslim prisoners during a meeting he had with the Ilkhanid Sultan Gazan(Mongols of Iran) after his army stormed the syrian cities and killed 10 000’s of people as long as the jewish and christian prisoners are not included in the post battle deal and eventually succeded to free them.
Alex,did you mean that the syrian people are corrupt and the regime’s heads are not ???? ,in reality ,the great majority of civil servants in Syria are not corrupts ,the corrupts are those who thanks to their proximity to one of the regime mafias are allowed to steal the syrian people ,and may i ask you ,who in Syria are more corrupt than president’s familly,relatives and the people who support them… ,this poll means nothing ,today it’s Bashar,yesterday it Bin Laden , Saddam ,Nasrallah ….As you know for the arab people everyone who use anti american and anti israeli rethoric becomes popular ,the high popularity of Chavez is more acceptable ,yes populist demagogue he is ,but unlike the arab dictators ,he did not erase democracy ,the Venezuelan liberal civil society (close to the opposition) was able to invite in its mass meeting,opponents to Chavez from all south America among them the writer Mario Vargas.Chavez till now did not commit dangerous mistake.After the the dicatorships era ,the new latin America have now superb democratic rulers like Lula,Kirchner and Michelle Bachelet,who improved their country in all fields , they are a good example to follow for the arabs.

June 6th, 2009, 4:35 am


majid said:

Hear me good Shami and be ‘labib’.

I’m not going to argue Ibn Taymiyya or other Muslim or non-Muslim scholars. It is a well known emphatic saying of Omar who he attributes to the Prophet: “La rahbaniyyata fi l Islam” which literally means: “There is no monasticism in Islam.”

When Omar refuses to pray in a church for whatever reason it becomes a tradition that Muslims must follow regardless of some scholars’ opinions.

Now this is the ‘labib’ part that you need to pay good attention.

A Muslim need not and must not seek to be politically correct at the expense of the authenticity of his faith. We do not believe in ‘taqiyya’. We say it as it had been handed to us by the best generation: “khayru’l’qourrouni qarni thumma’l’athina yalounahoum thumma’l’athina yalounahoum.”

June 6th, 2009, 4:57 am


Shami said:

Of course ,no monasticism in Islam which means in fact ,no celibacy in Islam.
And i did not say the opposite ,i m speaking the stance of one muslim theologian on christian monasticism.
As for monasticism in Islam ,a kind of monasticism existed but the difference ,is that they were for episodic spiritual retreats,Ghazali himself went to Damascus for this purpose.The Sufi “monasteries” are called Taqiya ,Khanqah….and they can be seen in all the muslim countries.
And Majid,Did the early muslim caliphs practiced taqiya when they were masters of the world?
In this era,Qaradawi confirmed this opinion by a fatwa allowing muslim prayer inside churches.

June 6th, 2009, 5:34 am


majid said:


With all due respect, if St. Paul was to be made relevant to the Muslims, The Prophet (PBUH) wouldn’t have forgotten about him. In fact, there are many verses in the Holy Qur’an which calls upon Muslims (actually commands them) to eschew whatever the priests and rabbis had ordained to their followers.

If you are a true believer in Islam I hope you go back to the Holy Qur’an, verify that and act accordingly.

If you are not a believer in Islam, I hope you respect what the believers in Islam have to say on this subject regardless whether you agree with it or not.

June 6th, 2009, 5:36 am


Majid said:

It is getting too crowded and hard to follow.

I’ll make it short this time because I do not want an involved argument.

Monasticism (rahbaniyya) is not just celibacy. Sufism is not monascticism. Qardawi can be right or wrong or he could have reasons. That’s his opinion. He cannot overrule Omar, and in fact if I recall correctly even the Prophet (PBUH) himself may have commanded against such behaviour. Omar probably was just following the Prophet’s instructions. I’ll have to check on that.
Let’s leave it at that.

June 6th, 2009, 5:45 am


Off the Wall said:

Well said (comment 20). To one degree or another, your well posed argument can easily be made here in the US as well. Atheists and agnostics, who now can claim 15% of our population and that is on the rise, continue to be marginalized despite of the fact that they exceed the combined Jewish/Muslim population. No politician in the US can be heard if she/he professed agnosticism or atheism. In fact the number of those who profess no religious faith whatsoever is 22%, which is larger than the size of any single faith group in the US. And yet, our leaders have to wear their and other peoples’ religions on their cuffs every time the utter a word.

June 6th, 2009, 5:54 am


Off the Wall said:

A glimmer of hope, humor, freedom, and protest in Morocco.


مغاربة يحتجون على شراء الاصوات الانتخابية بمظاهرة تقودها حمير

جانب من المسيرة الاحتجاجية يتقدمها حمار في مدينة الناظور المغربية

الرباط ـ القدس العربي ـ من محمود معروف ـ دخل الحمير على خط الانتخابات البلدية المغربية المقررة يوم الجمعة القادم وخرجوا في مظاهرات تندد بظاهرة شراء الاصوات التي انتشرت خلال الايام الماضية.

وبث موقع “يوتيوب” الالكتروني والذي اصبح ملجأ لاحتجاج المغاربة شريطا مدته ثلاث دقائق عن خروج عشرات المواطنين المغاربة بمدينة الناظور (شمال) في مسيرة احتجاجية، يتقدمهم حماران، للتنديد بـ”استعمال المال في شراء الأصوات الانتخابية بالمدينة” ووزعوا بيانا باسم “اللجنة التحضيرية للدفاع عن حقوق الحمير”.

وبات شراء اصوات الناخبين ظاهرة في الانتخابات التشريعية او المحلية المغربية تشكو منها مختلف الاحزاب السياسية وتنتقد السلطات لحيادها السلبي تجاه هذه الظاهرة وان كانت السلطات قد كفت عن تزوير الانتخابات وفرض المرشحين الفائزين.

وأكد وزير الاتصال الناطق الرسمي باسم الحكومة أن العدالة ستتخذ كل التدابير الزجرية من أجل ضمان احترام العملية الانتخابية لـ 12 حزيران/يونيو بشكل مطلق.
وأوضح خالد الناصري أن “السلطات سواء الإدارية منها أو القضائية ستكون بالمرصاد لكل الاختلالات التي قد تحدث أثناء العملية الانتخابية”.

وقال وزير العدل عبد الواحد الراضي انه تم اتخاذ كل التدابير والإجراءات القانونية والقضائية حتى تتم العملية الانتخابية في إطار من النزاهة والشفافية والتقيد بالضوابط القانونية والأخلاقية اللازمة.

وجاب المتظاهرون الذين أطلقوا على إطارهم “التنظيمي” اسم “اللجنة التحضيرية للدفاع عن حقوق الحمير” مختلف شوارع وأزقة مدينة الناظور، يتقدمهم حماران علق عليهما يافطات تندد بشراء الاصوات مثل “الحمير تعيب على بنى البشر بيع ضمائرها بأبخس الاثمان” و”انا حمار افعل ما يمليه علي ضميري”، كما استعملوا مكبرات الصوت لترديد شعارات تنتقد “شراء الذمم وغض السلطات الطرف عنها” ووزعوا بلاغ “من الحمير إلى الرأي العام من بني البشر” فيما قالت اللافتات الصغيرة المعلقة على الحمير إن الصوت الانتخابي في المنطقة وصل ثمنه إلى 600 درهم (75 دولاراً).

وسجل “بلاغ الحمير”، الموجه إلى الرأي العام من بني البشر، استمرار “خرق القانون وتجاوزه من قبل بعض وكلاء اللوائح”، في مقابل «الحياد السلبي لمختلف الأجهزة المعنية بالاستحقاقات”.

وقال إن الوعود والعروض لشراء الصوت الواحد وصلت إلى 500 درهم، مشيرا إلى أن هذا الثمن المعروض لمن كرمهم الله، في إشارة إلى بني البشر، يهدد الحمير وباقي الحيوانات، ودعا إلى “احترام الحمير، على الأقل لسعرها، الذي يبلغ 2500 درهم كحد أدنى”. وختم البلاغ بـ”وعاشت الحمير مستقلة ونزيهة”.

ولم تتدخل السلطات الا بعد وصول المظاهرة الى مقر العمالة (المحافظة) حيث اعتقلت4 صحافيين محليين وناشطا جمعويا افرجت عنهم في وقت متأخر من ليلة الثلاثاء الأربعاء بينما وضعت الحمير المتظاهرة في مستودع المجلس البلدي.

June 6th, 2009, 6:03 am


Shami said:

Majid ,there are different schools regarding Quran intepretation.
You speak as the muslim scholars had one voice on everything.

For example ,the rationalists ,the sufis ,the salafis,…….

In Sunnism we dont have clerical system that impose on us how to be a muslim ,this variety of opinions within the same school itself and between this trend and the other, this plurality of opinions is common in Sunnism.

And btw ,today the level of the muslim scholars is very low for several reasons,so in my opinion,our own reason is often better than the advices of these weak scholars.
It’s also related to this miserable political context ,during the liberal era (pre Nasser) ,the Muslim scholars like Abdo ,Kawakibi,Ali Abdulrazik,Jamal Din Afghani ,accepted modernity in a spontaneous manner(and secularism),the opinion of Abdo for example was that the western society was supperior to the islamic society and he used as indicator ,his understanding of Islam.
Democratization of the Arab and Islamic world is a necessity in order to gain back such qualitative civil society.
These last 50 years are lost years.

June 6th, 2009, 6:07 am


Off the Wall said:

Anyone noticed the strange problems has been having over the past week?

June 6th, 2009, 6:19 pm


Jad said:

Dear OTW,
I contact Ayman about that, nothing political at all, just technical problems with the shared server.
It should be back soon.

Check (Mr.Quadi opening) for a “lovely” news about Syrian Propsed law, you will be as happy as I with our excelent Gov.

June 6th, 2009, 6:25 pm


Off the Wall said:

Dear Jad
Thank you very much. It was just a strange coincidence after the site showed itself as a highly effective site on a critical issue.

I gather from that these guys (government) have no clue about the concept of sunk cost. In large civil engineering project, once a project shows that it is bad, it is abandoned completely no matter how much investment was poured in the initial phases. Secret committees is not the way to make laws and the continuing silence in the official press is shameful. More shameful and bankrupt is the position of the organized Syrian opposition. One would wonder if there is a deal before the anticipated political party’s law is issued (which is probably being developed by another secrete committee)

Last week, a group of academic, law makers, and political and civil society groups, met in al Zarqa University in Jordan to discuss the new social security law before it is to be submitted to the Jordanian parliament. Now this is a genuine attempt at openness and accountability, and we must give credit where credit is due. On Moroccan TV, political activists now occupy a sizable area on various programs. Challenges are issued, and public debate, although not fully free, is beginning taking hold in these two oppressive monarchies. Sadly, the hereditary republics of the arab world, including Syria continue to lag behind these two monarchies. Algeria is probably the only one showing little signs of improvements. And before anyone jumps on my case asking why didn’t I include the most liberal Arab country (Lebanon) in the free zone. As much as I would love to, i have hard time acknowledging the efficacy of a system that is dominated by foreign/arab embassies. With the exception of a few, the current batch of Lebanese politicians are masters in surrendering the sovereignty of their country. There are hopeful signs, but the confessional dealing and wheeling system prevents these signs from further development. However, the environment is suitable in Lebanon. In Syria, I am afraid, it is not.

One would hope that this recent debacle will result in the emergence and solidification of a qualitatively different activist groups in Syria. There are signs of that, the activists who are presenting case after case of the numerous constitutional, treaty, and human rights violations in the proposed law are doing the right thing. They recognize that the flaw is in the system, not only in a few people. I have always been dreaming of the day lawyers and activists in Syria take their rightful place away from political parties and a way from the struggle for seats at the banquet table where the financial pie called Syria is being sliced and devoured in small and big chunks. It will be a hard uphill battle, but that is politics at its best, not its worst.

All I want to say is that Syria and the Syrian people deserve better than this.

June 6th, 2009, 7:56 pm


Jad said:

I agree on every note you wrote OTW, I don’t care about any other Arab country, what I only care about is my own, my Syria. Our Syrian system sunk into a new lower level on domestic matters, I fed up with every news I read about Syria on Financial, Political, Educational, Religious, Environmental, Development and Human Rights…every level is going from bad to worst…and this parliament members we’ve got are bunch of opportunist losers who doesn’t know why they even end up in a parliament or what a member means for them other than stealing more money and thinking that he/she is important…does anyone of them think of or even meet with the stupid people who elect them?
As long as Syria keeps losing every professional to another country that know better how to benefit from and as long as Syria keeps international politics ahead of the domestic reform they are going nowhere but down. The system we have managed to create a set of dysfunctional rules and strategies that needs some kind of biblical times miracle to change them, not only the good will, which I believe it doesn’t truly exist anymore, people in the streets don’t care about anything anymore and they are not aware of what is planned for them and their children. Our government is like a chicken with its head cut off running into the big word of ‘future’ knowing nothing about what it will face around the first corner ahead…the way this government is treating Syrians is disgusting. Do you remember Fairouz “Natouret Almafati7” that is Syria today.

June 6th, 2009, 9:07 pm


love you alex said:


Take a pill man! what is this rant? You sound like a Disgruntled communist or a right wing nut like the rush Limbaugh of the world, Just angry and out of control.

Pick a policy and be critical and constructive. Offer a suggestion.

June 6th, 2009, 10:13 pm


Jad said:

Yes I’m a combination of a communist and a right wing together.
Just out of curiousety do you have any idea what I was talking about before writing your Mou3alaka?
Why don’t you take a pill for knowledge and one for reality before you write you comment.

June 7th, 2009, 12:17 am


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