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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Secular Shivers and Religious Fever

In April of this year I posted Blogging Syria to mark the second anniversary of this blog. While commemoration was my primary purpose I have also used it to express a desire to read more Arabic written Syrian blogs. For the next seven months I did not explicitly refer to the subject again. However, don't reach the conclusion that I am a patient and tolerant reader. I am neither. Soon thereafter I lost interest and my enthusiasm dwindled. I reverted to my original list of favorites and pleasantly saw it grow in numbers. Most of the new additions, if not all, were not surprisingly English written Syrian blogs. There are exceptions to any rule and our venerably stunning Razan is such. Despite my deep rooted aversion to any word ending with "ism" I do value her Arabic Razanisms. She is adept at exploiting the unexpected and had managed to elevate her impulsiveness much higher in the last couple of years. Obviously her aggressive writing style has made her a preferred target for blinkered and bigoted minds. Whenever I read her I end up smiling. Whether or not I agree with her, I only have admiration for her courage and tenacity.

Among the exciting blogs I am regularly reading now are those of three beautiful ladies. You can not fault me for liking women more than men. As a matter of fact, I don't like men at all except to watch a football game with or as drinking buddies. Mariyah pervaded our senses like a gentle zephyr impregnated with scents of jasmine and magnolia. As a reader, I find her one of the most exciting and talented writers on the Syrian Blogosphere. Diana's Quiver is filled with arrows of superb craftsmanship. They are accurate, revealing and lucid. Besides, how can I not like her when she shares her precious name with my firstborn? It was my father who gave my daughter her name because of his affection, or infatuation perhaps, with the late Princess of Wales. Then there is Dania who calls her blog My Chaos. In fact she is not chaotic at all; sensitive perhaps, candid and fervent in defending her right to be free is what the reader will find in and between the lines of her hyper and intelligent posts.

I have paid tribute to four fantastic female bloggers not for the purpose of being nice to them but rather to use their writings as contrasting samples to the new breed of mainstream Syrian blogs. The one insight I gained out of my blogging experience is that this medium “blogging” is made by the people but not for the people. I think I should elucidate my point a little further. While the writings of most Syrian bloggers are direct reflections of life on the street they are not read by the Syrian Street. As writers and readers we have developed a severe case of a double personality disorder. I try, certainly without success at times, to be as down to earth as possible when I write. However, when I read and ultimately enjoy the work of other bloggers I am unwillingly becoming a member of a limited and restrictive fraternity/sorority. But here is the interesting part, at least as far as I am concerned. Despite the meager total number of Syrian bloggers, they all fall under two broad categories, secular or religious. The Syrian blogging movement had started as a secular/liberal outcry in the face of political totalitarianism. The early writings addressed individual freedom and liberty, attacked the unilateral decision making process of the political establishment in Syria and advanced pluralism. Generally speaking, they were mostly written in English. The recent trend, mostly expressed in Arabic, is best characterized as a sweeping current of religious zealotry. These newcomers may or may not openly oppose the political establishment but they share the common vision/dream of Islamic Revival to right what is presently wrong in this country and the rest of the world. Along the way, and in between, a few politically ambitious and self promoting individuals hitched a ride but then decided that the end does not justify the means. After all the audience is too small and smart to gratify their inflatable egos so they luckily turned elsewhere to advance their Machiavellian causes. I am not aware whether there have been attempts at any time to glorify and support the political establishment (i.e. regime) in Syria or in other Middle Eastern countries by bloggers. The concept is plainly absurd. Blogging is dubbed as an alternative medium. Millions of dollars are being spent on maintaining a failing and archaic information system and thousands of employees are working in state controlled journalism institutions yet the quality and integrity of their output remain pathetic. Any involved reader can have much more accurate and relevant information about Syria by browsing less than a handful of Syrian political blogs. Let me emphasize an important point here, these few blogs are far more pertinent as a reference on Syria than the major international media giants as well. At least their biases are minute and rather individual in scope and magnitude.

I have failed to mention the crossovers so far or those blogs that are written in English for instance and carry an obsessive moral message or their Arabic opposites. There was one particular blog written in Arabic which appeared in 2007 for a few months then stopped called Esfarjel. I have no idea why Esfarjel did not continue blogging but his/her sense of sarcasm and wit was on a par by itself. It would be great to have him/her posting regularly again.

In closing I feel I must state the obvious. Syrian society is clearly divided along secular/religious principles and beliefs and so are Syrian bloggers. Each group is primary writing for its own inner circle and infrequently someone trespasses his/her turf with an uncalled for comment and tension becomes inevitable. Should we continue to avoid each other? Not at all but let it be agreed that dialogue is a two-way street. If we truly take for granted that we are 100% right and/or that God for instance is on our side then what is the point behind engaging ourselves in a conversation. This is the primary fuel for a sermon which by definition is a monologue. To convert the other, to register a win, to satisfy our vanity or to top our account of “good” deeds for the Day of Judgment, that is the role of a preacher and not that of a blogger.

*This post was inspired by Dania's post Religious fever.


Diana said...

First, let me say that I am honored that you mentioned me, yet again, in your excellent blog. It really is quite a thrill to be recognized by such by thoughtful, entertaining, and talented person you are, especially since I am just at the beginning of this blogging adventure. More on my name in a future post. :)

Second, your take on blogging is thought-provoking. There does seem to be a lot of preaching to the choir going on, on both sides. Nevertheless, just putting ideas out there, whatever those ideas may be, in the relatively democratic medium that is the internet, is bound to do good. Someone is bound to accidentally come across something that intrigues them, as happened with me and your blog, and progress will slowly come.

Abu Kareem said...

Abu Fares,

I read Dianas post referring to Razan's and then read the latter post. I was angered and outraged. My impulse was to write something about the topic and you beat me to it. I will still post something on my take on all this. I appreciated, as I always do, your post but I could sense that you had to restrain yourself in writing this.

abufares said...

The honor is all mine. I have to admit now that I had an ulterior motive in promoting your and the other 3 excellent blogs.
Over time, uninterrupted blogs acquire regular readership. Some of the readers of abufares said... are not necessarily from Syria and it could be that they follow only one or two Syrian blogs. I want these readers in particular to know about the excellent writing we have and the variety of topics and styles. In my profile, I claim that I have no message to give. However, advancing the cause of my country and its people is a personal pleasure of mine.
Loud voices and hollow figures make the headlines all over the world. Gems are hard to find and if I can only point a finger in the right direction I'm overwhelmed by a deep sense of gratification.

These are 4 of our women ladies and gentlemen, may be by reading Razan, Mariyah, Diana and Dania you would better understand my love for this land and... her women.

abufares said...

@Abu Kareem
You're absolutely correct in that this is a very restrained post. I intended to maintain my civility and a shade of objectivity since I am describing the current status quo of the social fabric in Syria.
In my opinion Syria's internal social tensions are not primarily along sectarian lines although I have to admit that the potential of sectarian trouble is not to be ignored completely. Instead, I think that Syria is undergoing social polarization along a secular/religious divide. This trend is transcending socioeconomic classification. More and more young Syrians are jumping on the religious train because of lack of plausible alternatives. Young women are using the Hijab as a way of expressing a new identity in the forging for example. Young men with early signs of growing facial hair and an intrinsic desire for learning are being "recruited" by the only visibly organized rivulets of Islamic Revivalism. With the absence of a reading culture and a dearth of books, not religious books, not cooking books, not dream interpretation books or what to do on the first night books but literary, humanist and secular books, we seem destined to move backward in time.
Unassumingly, I want to inform Syrians and other interested readers that there are alternatives and that it has not always been like this and that there is a middle ground between political totalitarianism and religious tyranny.
I look forward reading your take on the subject and I'm extremely proud of our ladies in shedding a light on this hot issue.

Dania said...

Dear Abufares,
You just made me blush; you overrated me with sweet words and physically made me blush…such an honor! You brought sweet system to my chaos by promoting my blog in this most exhilarating, intellectual blog of yours...
As you said, religious ambitions in creating a religious state is basically built on refusing the other, to discuss the issue, you are discussing it with a bunch of laws, books, sayings that are 1500 years old with no intention to agree on a common floor to stand on in the two ways road trip you've mentioned.
I respect all religious believe, but won't accept or respect religious believe on the restriction on any one's freedom, even if it was my enemy… I don’t see a common floor on the near future to build an exchange of ideas in a productive way without creating defensive reactions that will make the gap bigger…

Abufares, again…
Thank you so much for this honoring tribute, you made my day ;)

Maysaloon said...

Abu Fares,
If you would be so kind, I'd like to wade into the current "storm in a teacup" that we are witnessing.

Firstly, I agree completely with you on the social polarization which is taking place in Syria and this can be seen as going through the secular/religious divide. I do not think this is something to worry about however, and I will say why briefly, so as to not take up too much space here.

I too have noticed the explosion in the number of Arabic and Syrian blogs, joyfully. It is vibrant, real and diverse. It is also unrestricted by the "netiquette" which early Syrian bloggers would have been moulded into. What you also have is Syrians who are Muslim, expressing their opinion about what is happening in their country and in the world around them. It seems we want "freedom" of expression, but only in the grand Apollonic sense which does not offend the sensibilities of the initial batch of bloggers who came with a liberal/secular outlook, by virtue of living abroad, being educated abroad or wishing Syria was more like abroad. I think engaging with others on identifying the good would help more than just opposing them. This brings me on to a number of small criticisms I have of this whole discussion taking place.

Mainly, I have read the original article attacking the blogger, but could somebody please tell me who he is or at least allow me to read his full text? The last time I checked, Razan either did not bother or was unwilling to provide a link to him, so where is this spirit of debate? Is this person even aware of the discussion he has triggered or are we going to be happy tsk-ing at him from behind his back?

Secondly, Dania has added more dust to the confusion by the post in her aptly named My Chaos blog, by elevating the debate, if one could call it that, to one about secularism and religion. She thinks that there is a "religious fever affecting the Syrian blogosphere" as if the same Syrian bloggers were once debating Sartre, Foucalt and Marx and are now transformed to mindless drones quoting from Muhammad ibn Abd Al Wahhab or Ibn Taymiyya. She seems quite willing to put forward plausible theories and give it much thought, but only after building these on faulty premises so that she can get the conclusion she wants. Also, she only cites from Razan's highly selective article, so again, the reader is sent down a road towards only one conclusion - the radicals are taking over Syria! Our pristine oasis of culture, secularism and interfaith dialogue is going to be polluted by these riff raff!

Finally, your article puts some sense on this all by asking that there be genuine dialogue but by limiting your statement to the rhetorical rather than to the specific case at hand, we still end up nowhere. So then we get the "outrage" of Abu Kareem, who has meandered quite innnocently into this discussion, heard somebody say "religion", "society" and "Syria" and has donned his Secular superhero outfit (with underpants on the outside), only to be calmed by the soothing balm of Abu Fares. We are lecturing about dialogue, yet disapproving of sermons, in an attempt to *tell* other Syrian bloggers how they should blog and what they should and shouldn't say? Isn't censorship bad enough, now we have to also define to them what is an acceptable ideology to espouse in their writing?

Do we even bother considering that people like that young man so horribly misquoted are just as frightened for their Syria as yourselves? Does it frighten us that many Syrians are choosing to live their lives as Muslim? Why? and why not talk to these fellow Syrians? This truly is a storm in a teacup!

Anonymous said...

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Abu Kareem said...

Can you ever make a comment without including a personal insult? But thanks anyway, no one has ever called me a superhero before.
No one is suggesting that there be a wall separating bloggers. Reread Abu Fares' last paragraph. The whole purpose of blogging is to break down barriers for the free exchange (emphasize exchange) of thoughts. People, secular or religious, unwilling to consider or debate alternative ideas are wasting their time blogging.
By the way, I prefer boxer shorts and they would be unsightly on the outside of my superhero outfit.

DUBAI JAZZ said...

Wassim oh Wassim,
Donned his secular outfit? WTF?

Can you even debate without being so obnoxiously condescending? The situation is exactly the opposite to what you’ve portrayed, it’s the guy with agenda of muzzling others, curtailing their freedom and HACKING INTO THEIR blogs that should be the target of your heat-seeking outrage….

Unless you openly and admitingly agree to be called a hypocrite…

DUBAI JAZZ said...

Abu Fares, sorry for using your hospitable den as medium for this hot debate, I agree with you 100%. In fact I posted about the subject matter myself. :)

abufares said...

You were were way out of line in addressing Abu Kareem in such a meaningless manner. I can't see how your unpleasantness can serve any purpose now or in the future.
It's a shame especially that you bring some interesting points for further discussion but sometimes form indeed supersedes substance.

abufares said...

@Abu Kareem
Bringing down the barrier is a significant achievement by itself. The two groups are too far apart to reach an acceptable compromise.
I wasn't born like this. I have been through a wide gamut of religiosity over the years.
It's not that I have never met a religious person capable of carrying out an intelligent conversation without resorting to God or divine text every next sentence he utters. But they are few, very few and even they find it very hard to swallow that they might be wrong since it shatters their whole belief system.
Dialog is difficult but we have to keep trying. And thank you for being patient.

Jabz said...

Can you ignore the 'obnoxious' manner wassim referred to Abu Kareem in, and maybe give your opinion about the very good points wassim has raised in his response to this debate, because i was really looking forward to your reply.
Thanks beforehand.

saint said...

As you wrote in your post, smart and know it all does not cut it right. Discussion is not a debate and should be fun; it is not the end of the world when someone faults. You are aware of, and I admire you for that the fact that those blogs are numbered on one hand and they are young and need care, respect and encouragement. If anyone gets harsh on any, he will play the devil work and kill them in the cradle, even before knowing what power and control they have.
You are one of the best who knows how to use the language, the space use and the etiquette which is long lost value, and I hope your influence will go far.
I hope you also introduce in the future couples of other bloggers who live outside Syria and have deep connection to the Land. I think in the future it is going to be very important to have classification and indices and feed back from readers. In the future bloggers will realize that they have tremendous power under their control and they can defend themselves in a click of a button. And one more thing, it is a smart way of advertizing and energizing the blogospheres, as you know there is no bad advertisement.

abufares said...

The heated discussion took me away from you. It shouldn't have. You were not only the inspiration for this post but its foremost purpose.
Instead of blushing, which I'm certain makes you even more gorgeous, why don't you step it up a notch and use blogging as a way to release daily pressures and entertain us all with your unabashed innocence.

abufares said...

Always a pleasure to have you around and don't worry at all about your outburst since you didn't start it.

Anonymous said...

Abu Fares,
when will we ever say another "cheers!"?

thank you dear, i may not be commenting on your blog lately, but you are always read.


abufares said...

Thank you for coming here and as Saint eloquently pointed out in his remark I'd rather take this opportunity to carry out a conversation not a debate. It's my strong belief that a debate on such a topic is pointless and would lead nowhere. Tempers might flare, voices would start getting higher and higher in order to muffle the next guy's argument. I've been in live "debates" about religion before. They are a total waste of time and very similar to the chicken and egg question.
Let us turn to some of the points brought up by Wassim.

On the first point.
The article Razan "attacked" was posted on 18/09/2008 by the 21st blogger on the list (reading from the top) of Syndicated blogs on Syplanet. The reason I didn't place the link here is simply that I don't want to advertise it. If anyone really cares to read it, let them find it on their own. I personally don't give a damn whether this person is or is not aware of our discussion not debate since it's not about him in the first place. It never was. It never will.

My answer to the second point is that apparently Wassim is the one stirring the storm in the teacup. It's not my role to talk on Dania's behalf but whatever state Syria is in, good or bad, pristine or soiled, it's very unfortunate that s Syrian casually posts this sort of riff raff indeed. By the way Razan did not in anyway "horribly misquote" that young man.

It does not frighten me at all that many Syrians are choosing to live their lives as "their interpretation of being" Muslim. But I don't want them to sabotage my own interpretation of Islam. Don't forget that I'm a Muslim myself and I object to the statement that Islam is a package which we can take as a whole or refuse. The argument that we cannot bend religion to our own liking and lifestyle rings hollow to me. Why not? The purpose of religion is to serve man, as an individual and as a society, not the other way around. I don't want to serve religion. It should improve the quality of my life. I openly and without remorse or shame take what makes sense to me and ignore what doesn't. You cannot call me Non-Muslim because I interpret Islam very liberally or I will call you Non-Muslim because you interpret Islam too literally. Religion is too volatile, too explosive to let loose in politics. This is not simply my opinion but this is the lesson we are supposed to have learned from history. Did you forget the last example? He's still in office and his name is George W. Bush. Why do you suppose that Islam would be any better in politics. Haven't we learned any lesson from our own history?
You my dear Jabz are a Muslim by virtue of birth and so am I. Had you been born a Christian for instance the odds against you converting to Islam would be astronomically small. We were born as so. We didn't make an intellectual choice. Had we been born Eskimos our image of hell would have been completely different. For them it's an endless expanse of utter cold and darkness. Being righteously and selectively religious (i.e. believing only in the religion of your birth) is like being a racist.
I am not like that. I don't regret for a minute being born a Muslim and I try my best, not to comply, but rather to flow with many of its personal and social delights but that's it for me. Something I don't agree with, and yes I dare not agree with certain stuff, then I don't do it.
Can you accept me in your world. Can you accept that there are those who don't believe at all, neither in religion nor in God? Can you accept that there are women and men who want to dress up with revealing clothes? Can you accept that some young people want to listen to and dance seductively to the songs of Haifa Wehbe? Can you accept that there are homosexuals around us and who want equal protection under the law?

I am asking you these questions because I ask them to myself and I find some of them very hard to accept and swallow. But if I had to choose between replacing the current political totalitarian system and then being strangled by a new order of religious tyranny on one side or living as equal to those I don't agree with or necessarily like on the other then my choice is already made.
And finally I'm not worried about us losing it all and following the West like golden retrievers. Greece is not an Islamic country. Armenia is not, Turkey is secular and they (among many other societies) have maintained a true sense of Eastern decency not through the prohibitive inscriptions of religion but through an Eastern conscience.
Let's not forget that we have a conscience at least.
Thank you for reading all the way.

abufares said...

Hello my friend.
Despite the turn this comment section took my original purpose was to introduce these wonderful ladies. I also wanted to point out that there is a certain polarization taking place in Syria and that as bloggers we might be able to discuss it through conversation.
My long reply to Jabz was an attempt at a conversation since I wanted him to know how I think. I have also told him that I accept his point of view as long as he, or someone later on, don't try to impose it on me. It's entirely up to him to personally like me or not but he has to recognize my right to exist along with the others he, you and even I might totally dislike and/or disagree with.

abufares said...

Ahlein 3youni. You know that you are always missed here and that you're always welcome to drop by.
Hopefully soon!

Yazan said...

Dearest Wassim,

As one of those "initial batch of bloggers" who are restricted by their "netiquette" (Like, say, not advocating hacking other people's blogs because we disagree with them, or maybe trying to avoid personal insults, suppressing the "vibrant" debate that you seem so good at), find myself having to reply to what you said, but the smell of it keeps me at bay (you might've guessed what I am referring to: Khara).

Wassim, your quest to reduce everyone here to your self-induced cultural stereotypes is, to say the least, tasteless.

Where exactly do you get the sense that people are frightened of Islam? When did Syrians stop being muslems anyway? They never did, the majority of the people have always been moderately religious, with that majority growing or shrinking through history. Nonetheless, is it really that outrageous for people to be defending their personal individual right to be different, against people who find it a holy mission to silence that difference?

Abu Fares,
It's a pity this debate had to poison an, otherwise, beautiful getaway of solace.

Maysaloon said...

I've had to reread my post just to see if it is the same as what you've all been referring to. It is not, thankfully, apart from the amusing superhero in underpants description, which is probably what has ruffled so many feathers. All of a sudden the false indignation and outrage which we were all supposed to feel upon hearing about this Ahmed fellow is directed directly upon me. Thank you, this debate has nothing at all to do with religion and each and every one of you knows it. It is also not about West/East, as might have been pointed out in some comments. No, it is about being incapable of carrying out any discussion with whosoever cannot be the same. Abu Fares the people being different are not those you speak of but in fact the very people who still are capable of saying, I don't like such and such, to someones face, have a strong position on something and are not worried about saying it or saying what they'd like to do about it. There is nothing more pointless than the politically correct and inane chit chat which characterised Syrian blogging till very recently. This discussion is what you all want it to be, not what it actually is and what you want it to be is the chance to point the finger at the "bad" person and say "there he is".

Oh, and Yazan it's not the smell which is keeping you from replying to me, it's that you are up to your neck in it. Thank you for bringing the discussion to a level you are comfortable with. Thank you all and good night. Peace.

Jabz said...

to be honest I didnt find anything insulting in what wassim said but anyway.
i agree with all your points but have some remarks, briefly those are:
- I dont think bending religion to suite ones lifestyle is acceptable, but you can interpret the verses in the Holy Quran according to your perspective and what you see as being logical since there is no one authority that interprets Islam in islam hence the different sects. But still the main rules are there, there are rules that cannot be looked at from different perspectives, and here i think is where muslims differ by the level of commitment or Eman.
- Indeed we were born as muslims, bet we still have to believe in it, we still make intellectual decisions whether we want to practice islam or just call ourselves muslims and have no idea what islam is about, there is still a decision to be made. I have seen friends who left the middle east and went to the west, some were religious some were not and some became very religious and some completely forgot their religion.

- i can accept freedom of expression and opinion but i cannot accept social corruption. there are people who say they are homosexual, but I cant really accept that they publicly advertise their homosexuality. If a person wants to be homosexual than let them be that in their own private lives inside their homes where no one will even interfere or know about it. There is no need to let the skeletons out of the closet.

- and finally why do people assume that if an islamic state is established that it would be really bad and that everyone will suffer from it? Turkey? didnt they prohibit the wearing of the Hijab in their universities? Where is the freedom of expression? is wearing the hijab more corrupting to the human brain than a half naked woman that took a dip in perfume, walking down the street chewing gum and swinging her purse?
(i got carried away with my imaginiation) :) thats all..thanks for your thoughts abufares!

Diana said...

You should know that your effort to encourage me is successful. :)

Dania said...

Dear Jabz,
- What you said, about "one can interpret the verses in the Holy Quran according to his/her perspective" sounds logical, but what if there were people who don’t want to take his/her rules by Quran? Regardless if they were Muslims or not or if you would consider them Muslims or not... What if they refuse to live under that law and asked you to join them into creating the law that is fair for all, you might talk it with logic with them, that you see and believe that the rules set by Quran is the rules must be followed, but what if they've got a good reason, hypnotically speaking, will you accept it?

- Freedom of speech is the ultimate freedom as long as it doesn’t cross the "harm line", homosexuals by expressing themselves are not crossing that line, they are just like heterosexuals expressing their sexuality and practicing their NORMAL life.

- Jabz, simply because by applying Islamic state, you are applying sets of rules made by religion over every one, you will create a rich atmosphere for extremism and for manipulating believes to reach political, economical or even personal deeds, it will mean more wars – like I can imagine the Islamic state launching a war over Denmark because of the cartoons -, and simply because it wont be civic society any more, it would be religious society, these are among hundreds other reasons…
Religious society will worship "Alla" or any other God they worship, but a civic society will worship "Humanity" that won't stop any one from worshiping any God they want as long as they don’t cross the harm-lines.

Forcing women into not wearing Hijab is as bad as forcing them to wear it, both are restriction to their freedom and freewill, but if a woman is chewing gum and walking naked in the street minding her own business, as long as she is not holding a knife threatening you with or trying to harass you, I don’t see how this is misusing of freedom of expression.

DUBAI JAZZ said...

Dear Jabz, first of all, please allow me to commend you on your calm approach toward the discussion, indeed, that's the way it should be done.

The bottom line my friend is that religion is a personal matter, period. Why do you care if my phone was Nokia or Mottorolla? Similarly, why do you care what other people believe in? I don't. We keep talking about Islam and how it should be interpreted, but what about other religions? Don't we have Christians in our midst too? Don't we have people who chose to worship Satan? Don't we have people who choose not to believe in any deity AT ALL? How do you handle those? To what set of beliefs do you want them to conform? You see my friend, it's a futile endeavor. I say let everybody believe whatever the heck he/she wants to believe and get on with it.

And what makes a bloke an authority in moral issues? Is it not that the divine retribution is going to come in the day after? So why do you want to expose people to a celestial penal code here and now even though they may not believe in it? Would you rather have people following what you out of fear, laziness and apathy, or would you rather let people BE what they feel like being? Wouldn't that be healthier for you and me and everybody?

Az3ar's Fan said...

I can only hope you don't get religion to take over the country of Syria. Oh, please don't make it so.

saint said...

Applaud to DJ,
I agree, Well said, everything is there in 235 words.

abufares said...

Dear Jabz
You cannot casually insult people in a discussion then take yourself seriously. That is my reply to your first opening sentence in your last comment.

I could just use DJ's answer to tell you that he portrayed my opinion and sentiments exactly but it wouldn't be fair in the spirit of a discussion.

- Faith (Eman) is totally independent of religion. One can be a strong believer in the existence of God without strictly adhering to any one religion. You have indirectly referred to me on Dania's blog as a Hiphop Muslim, that is you passed judgment on me because I don't conform to your idea of how a "good" Muslim should be. Jose Murinho the current Inter coach and a celebrity I wholeheartedly despise was quoted this week as saying:
"I am not the best football coach in the world, but there is no football coach better than me."
That's brilliant and in the same spirit let me tell you that I am not the most devoted Muslim in the world, but there is no Muslim more devoted than me.
-Of course we have to believe in it. But how literal or liberal we believe is totally personal and not to be evaluated by others. A religiously fanatical Jew is another copy of a religiously fanatical Christian who is the same as a religiously fanatical Muslim. There is nothing inherently different between people who were born to various religions and who lead honest lives and as thus I cannot for the life of me classify people according to their religion. How do you see it acceptable to make these non-Muslims live by your rules? Aren't the European governments treating Muslims much more fairly than most Islamic countries? More fairly than Saudi Arabia for certain.
- I agree with you that some forms of social corruption (as you and I might call but which others might disagree with us on) are not easy to swallow. We must collectively reach a mature form of law which reflects the collective values of our entire society. Gone are the days of living in a false bubble of security when we considered ourselves the majority (whoever the hell we happen to be). We have to live and let live. If it means that we have to see certain things we don't personally like on a street corner we have to accept that as a price for our own liberation.
I don't have to tell you this Jabz but my 8 year old boy goes to the mosque (150 m away from home) every Friday. Sometimes while playing on his bicycle in the street below he would hear the Azan and goes in for a quick prayer. Do you find it ironic that I "let" him do that? Do you think an extremely religious father would let his kid go play football instead of attending the Friday Sermon? Can you contemplate who is bringing up a "better" Muslim?
-Turkey is wrong in prohibiting the Hijab and you are wrong in judging the half-naked woman. But if I have to really choose between the Turkish example or the promised Utopia of an Islamic state, I choose red with a white crescent moon and a star.
Thank you Jabz for coming over.

abufares said...


abufares said...

@Az3ar's Fan
I wouldn't worry much over this secular-religious battle my friend.
The way it looks is that Syria is already taken by a third party and apparently for quite a long time to come :-)

Jabz said...

Thank you abufares for letting my comments appear on your blog.
I apologize for attacking your devotedness to islam and hope you don't take it by heart since it seems you remember the exact term I used.
This discussion has made me see a different side of the social fabric in Syria given that I haven't spent much time there in recent years.
Indeed the woman with the red dress might have had good intentions whatever those might have been after all:
إنما الأعمال بالنيات

Thank you, looking forward to reading your next post :)

Jabz said...

Think about it from a different perspective. The American elections for example. There are people who voted for Obama and there are those that chose McCain, and those that chose Gravel and so on, now even though the majority voted for Obama there are still those that voted for those other candidates, but they won't get what they want after all it is the majority that decides who the next president is. And it should be no different when it comes to what form of government we want in Syria or any other country if the majority choose to have an Islamic state.
I don't think your comments really make sense cause your just forming your ideas in order to meet your conclusion. I ask you this question, what is the purpose of having civil laws and punishments in our society? Arn't the laws and punishments out there to make you afraid of the consequences you face for doing the wrong thing?
If I do not believe in or agree on the civil laws in Syria does that make them void? do they now not apply to me? Civil law doesn't tell you what to be, neither does Islamic law, it might give rules on what you can and can't do in public but doesn't tell you what you can do or not in your own house.

I also completely agree with Razan when she replied i think to your post DJ when she said that she doesnt believe that there is a secular or religious path and that it is all the same.

abufares said...

Apology accepted and incidence forgotten.
Don't think that you are the only one who is seeing a new social face of Syria. We are all learning and discovering this and other dynamics whether living in Syria or abroad.
My broad generalization about polarizing blogs into secular and religious ones was not very impressive or accurate. However, I must repeat that it was a "generalization" and every social or political aspect is scaled on a "continuum" as Abu Kareem indicated on his blog. So any blog could be indeed classified on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being extreme secularism and 10 being extreme religious fanaticism). In light of this new definition, many of the new Syrian Arabic written blogs as I clearly stated in my post fall around 8 or over, from my point of view.
Why the use of these 2 words (secular and religious) stirred so many monsters under the bed only support my point. Syrian society is indeed divided along this line. We have an economic divide between the haves and the have-nots. And we have a divide between the secular and religious. Probably the word secular was misunderstood. I didn't think I should post the dictionary definition of the word but here it is to be certain that I'm not misunderstood.

of or pertaining to worldly things or to things that are not regarded as religious, spiritual, or sacred

Accordingly, Ayman's blog

is a secular blog.

The social division I'm talking about is that a large group of Syrians classify themselves as Muslims before any other characteristic. On the other hand, another large group is secular in that religion does not play a central role in their lives. Every Syrian, as a matter of fact, every human would fit somewhere on a scale of 1 to 10. The 1's and 10's are, according to me, the most dangerous.
Thank you again for an entertaining and stimulating conversation. You are always welcome on my blog.
By the way, my next article is certainly secular as I intend to post a recipe:-)

abufares said...

DJ should answer your comment but let me just butt in. Obama was elected for 4 years, 8 years maximum, not forever.
If an Islamic party wins the elections in a democratic system (i.e. Turkey) for a definite term then there's no problem at all. People will give this party a shot and evaluate its performance. The party might win or lose the next elections. But an Islamic State will not allow this process to continue.

DUBAI JAZZ said...

Dear Jabz, thank you so much for your reply.

You bring up the subject of civil laws as if I was calling for lawlessness. I certainly am not. :)

What I am totally and vehemently against is imposing religious moralities on our daily lives and making it compulsory by introducing laws that address subjects like dress code, policing the inter-mingling between genders, what should and what should not be said in public, what books should or should not be published, who’s allowed to run for elections and who’s not or sexual orientation of people.

Democracy is a package. Take it or leave it. Let’s take a look as the example that you cited which is the American elections (although I am not a huge fan of the model of American democracy). The republicans didn’t get the office this time around. They will try their luck the next term. But in the meantime, they will be given complete rights of oversight and scrutiny over everything the democrats are doing. They will hold their conferences and they will decry every screw up the democrats make along the way. So tell me: are Islamic parties (wherever they are) prepared to accept these terms when they engage in a political process? In other words; are you going to allow a communist party to hold meetings and nationally publicized press conferences where they would harshly criticize your policies?

Are you going to allow a group of atheists to form a society and conduct meetings and such activities without getting harassed?

Are you going to allow scientists to conduct their researches without imposing on them what they should or shouldn’t venture to?

Are you going to allow qualified citizens from other religions and sects to compete for high positions in academia and public service?

Are you going to concede and hand over power to a secular party if it wins the elections the next time around?

Are you prepared to serve EVERY CITIZEN equally and allow them to make use of their civil rights without discrimination upon religion?

If your answer to the above questionnaire is a yes, then we are in agreement my friend. I’d be the first one to support your right to exist and live in the way desire.

DUBAI JAZZ said...

Thank you Abu Fares, your great post has instigated a very interesting debate and you my friend are the best :)

Jabz said...

yes your right but is the western created democracy what suites the society in Syria? thats one thing. Second thing is that I feel that people who oppose having a Islamic state (one which bases its laws, regulations and anything else on islamic teachings and the teachings of the Quran)think that if we do it will end up being like the one in Saudi Arabia, or Iran even though Iran is a democracy, yet the very stringent in its laws, policing etc as we all know.
What about states such as Malaysia? that practices sharia law but no one seems to mention.

We should not think of an Islamic state as one that will take us backwards make us more ignorant and less respectful of other people, after all this is not what Islam teaches.

DJ: again same thing. you are thinking in a way as if Islam is a backwards ideology that suppresses human rights, freedom of expression etc, when obviously that is completely opposite to what it teaches. I understand that the points you have put forward might have been formed by you maybe looking at Islamic history and past actions, structures and laws of islamic states, but what was back then is not necessary what is needed or viable in todays world. I have to admit that an islamic state will probably carry with it some of the things you are worried about such as dress codes, who can run for elections (in some cases for example the Khalifa should be muslim obviously), and banning of public display of sexual orientation but other things you mentioned such as 'policing the inter-mingling between different genders' never existed and only exists today (in KSA) because of the mixing between culture and religion.

I don't know if your looking for my opinion regarding those questions or the actual islamic context of those questions. I think the Q regarding political parties would require a whole new discussion and the other 4 Q's in short would be a Yes that is in my opinion with reservation on the scientists Q's. But i think you should be more worried about those questions than the stuff you mentioned earlier.

so right now you do not support my right to exist and live in the way i desire? :)

Thanks all for the mind-opening discussion!

Mariyah said...

Dearest, Abu Fares. First off, I'd like to thank you for your reference to my blog and your compliments. They are much appreciated. It is an honour to be mentioned in the same breath with these other fantastic bloggers. I could mention some male bloggers, along with yourself who provide wonderful blogs and information about Syria - Yazan and Abu Kareem! I enjoy all of these very much.

I have felt very badly that I haven't been able to provide a blog exclusively in Arabic. I am ashamed to say that I have not honed my writing skills in Arabic. Since much of my professional life was spent in Canada, I only used English. I am working on improving my Arabic and hope, one day, to have a mirror blog in our native language.

I have steered clear of politics and religion in my blog. I felt there were a lot of very strong blogs out there that already dealt with these topics - clearly Razan is one of those. That is not to say that I don't have an opinion. I feel that both of these topics should be discussed openly and rationally and civilly. However, unfortunately, extremism does not leave room for tolerance which makes it a very difficult force to deal with. I hope that there are enough rational people out there willing to have discussions, but we will always have to deal with fanaticism. We just cannot allow its bullying tactics and unpleasantries to soften or extinguish our voices.

abufares said...

The most beautiful aspect of a discussion is that there are no winners or losers.
I still need to answer your new question though.

Q-is the western created democracy what suites the society in Syria?
A-Certainly not as far as I'm concerned. My personal opinion is that we need to forge our own passage to liberty from the accumulation of religions, cultures and civilizations which inhabited this great land of ours and borrow from others (WHY NOT). Islam could provide a most significant contribution but should not monopolies this duty and privilege. Do you really think that the penal code of Islam is much different from that of Hammurabi? Where do you think the "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth" principle came from?
Islam is certainly much more refined because it has the luxury of time on its side.
I see no valid reason to stop human social evolution and it's very plausible, although highly hypothetical, that some INTERNET archaeologist comes over this "discussion" a thousand years from now and laughs his ass off at the primitiveness, naivety and crudeness of our ideas (yours and mine).

abufares said...

Now I will be accused of being grossly unjust in treating my guests in the comment section.

El Denniah Ma 7elweh balaki :-)

When I mentioned you as an example it was exactly because you have stirred away from politics and religion and accordingly I considered yours a secular blog. It was not my intention at all to go back in time to confront an absentee blogger for something he wrote. As a matter of fact I read what has now become a controversial post back when it was first written. I left, without leaving a comment but with the decision that I'll never waste my time again there. That was the end of the story for me.
Then I read Dania's post and felt her enthusiasm in defending her own freedom of thought and I was inspired.
So I decided to pay tribute to her and to Razan who was the reason behind Dania writing her post in the first place. And I've been following Diana's Quiver for sometime and enjoying her relatively short poignant posts. Finally, there's You. Ever since you popped your little head on the Syrian blogosphere you've certainly made it a much nicer and warmer place. You brought love and affection. You brought Romance and mystery. But most significantly you brought Style. Your delicate mastery of writing is breathtaking.
I wanted to let everyone knows about the 4 of you, although Razan Masha Allah doesn't need any promotion (Bet La7e2 3ala Balad:-)))

Then look where this post took you, me and everyone involved. In a way, it's a good thing because it opened a channel of discussion on a topic that is sensitive judging from the reactions it solicited so far.

Thank you for leaving a scent of Jasmine behind.

DUBAI JAZZ said...

Dear Jabz, thank you for replying.
I of course support your right to exist and live the way you desire no matter what. I was referring, as you could infer from the context, to a perceived Islamic political entity that one day might engage in a political process. Nobody said Islamic precepts were backward or anything, Islam is a great religion and it doesn't need me or you to illustrate a point. It doesn't even require compulsion or regulating of dress code and stuff. Why do you need to coerce people from the first place? Coercion is meant for unattractive things, like military service which obviously not everyone would be enthused to join for some reasons (as an example). Coercion is for your 4 years old son who doesn't want to drink milk or take his medicine. When it comes to adults and moral choices, coercion is poisonous. It has absolutely the adverse effect. It's especially repulsive when it's carried out in the name of religion. So my friend, what I am looking forward to is a dialogue where people leave their religious mission at the door and come with neutral ideas, because when you're talking about a collective decision-making process for a nation then the superiority and the omniscience of your personal faith should be put aside. You can always come up with ideas that are based on your personal belief, but you shouldn't expect everyone to accept them (especially when they intrude into their personal life and personal space) and should you wish to be more open-minded, you might entertain the idea of assessing other people's suggestions with the same level of critical thinking that you would usually use to assess a religious concept.

As for the Khilafah state…well, let's just say that it contradicts the very basic concept of rotary and pluralistic democracy…

DUBAI JAZZ said...

And yes Jabs, I was interested in your answers on those question (6 questions actually, not 4 ;) ). But they all more or less fall within the bracket of accepting others and allowing them to engage in the process even when they're diametrically opposed to what you believe in. And I must say that 4 YESs is a great score. I'd be seriously pleased if the majority of religiously-inclined people were thinking the same things…

Have a good day.

The Syrian Brit said...

"Je ne suis pas d'accord avec ce que vous dites, mais je me battrai pour que vous ayez le droit de le dire."


(I do not agree with what you say, but I will fight for your right to say it.)

If only we could learn!...

Ascribo said...

I almost forgot how funny it could be to engage (or better: watch people engaging) in a religious vs. secular arguement...By the way, I thought secularism meant that one doesn't really care about religion, rather than being ultra-allergic to all things religioius.

The bottom line is, well, it's very difficult to change other's way of seeing things...Neither party is going to successfuly convert the other. Why we don't all keep our differences to ourselves and build on our common grounds? That's beyond me...

abufares said...

@Syrian Brit
First of all I'm very happy to see you here after such a long absence.

Voltaire no less... "If only we could learn!..."

abufares said...

Thank you for taking the time to comment.
I really don't believe we should work on changing each other's mind but rather any attempt at understanding each other's thought should be encouraged and pursued.

abufares said...


This subject initiated a domino effect of a sort. It has been followed mostly on English written Syrian blogs. However, a parallel discussion, namely on the Damascene blog of Ayman took shape in Arabic. Some of us read both English and Arabic blogs but very few leave comments here and there.
It would have been of tremendous value for my blog and an honor for me if Ayman left his very valid questions about my generalization and simplification of the subject matter here.

FYG, I copied my 2nd comment on his article.

العزيز أيمن
لم يكن هدفي الإرادي أو الغير إرادي ادعاء المعرفة. تابعت هذا الموضوع وما وصل إليه باستغراب ودهشة. إذ أن ردود الفعل فاقت التدوينات الأساسية جدلاً وحدة. على الجانب الإنكليزي من التدوين السوري وبشكل عام (لم أجد حتى الآن ما يعيب التعميم عدا كون بعض المعلقين الأعزاء من حملة شهادات الدكتوراه المتخصصة جداً والذين لا يمكنهم إلا قبول النتاج الفكري لحملة جائزة نوبل في الإقتصاد) كانت ميالةً أكثر إلى اللبرالية الفكرية والعلمانية. بينما لم يكن هنالك عدد كاف من التدوينات والتعليقات على الجانب العربي لاستنباط نتائج تحمل المصداقية الاحصائية ولا نريد التعميم هنا حتماً، فالتعميم بدعة. لندع الشعبية جانباً عزيزي أيمن فأنا من الأشخاص اللذين لا يأخذون أنفسهم بمحمل الجد لأنني لا أملك متسعاً من الوقت لذلك ولعل هذه الميزة بالذات ساهمت بالشعبية التي تتكلم عنها والتي إن كانت صحيحة ومستحقة تعود إلى القراء اللذين لآ يملكون الوقت أيضاً للأمور الجادة فهم بغالبيتهم مثلي، من حملة الثانوية العامة على الأكثر ويشاطرونني الرأي أنه (ما فيه شي مستاهل). عذراً لكن لا بد لي من أن أقتبس من زميلي أوسكار وايلد
"Seriousness is the only refuge of the shallow".
أعود وأكرر ما قلته على مدونتي أن هدف مقالتي تحديداً كان إلقاء الضوء على كتابات بعض المدونات (الإناث) السوريات الجديدات والتي أقل ما يقال فيها أنها رائعة واعتبارها متناقضةً اسلوباً ومضموناً مع عدد لا يستهان به من المدونات السورية (العربية) الجديدة والتي تتسم وبشكل عام (أستغفر الله) بميولها الدينية. أيمن... ما أقترحه هو أن تطالع المدونات الجديدة بالعربية وخاصةً تلك المعلنة على موقع المدون لتصل إلى الرأي الذي تراه مناسباً. إن ردي هذا ليس موجهاً لك أنت تحديداً وانما رد (عام). عذراً على الإطالة أو إن كنت تجاوزت حدود ضيافتك الكريمة

Mariyah said...

This has turned into quite the discussion, rightly so. Thank you, again, for your compliments and support. As always, they are very touching and encouraging. :)

GottfriedStutz said...

Hi Abufares,

Why haven't I visited your blog before? It is a gold mine of interesting opinions and information. Thanks for that.

I, too, miss Esfarjel. If anyone knows her/his identity, may be we could encourage her/him to pick up that keyboard again.

abufares said...

Thank you for you first visit and comment. I hope they won't be your last.
Don't expect me to maintain this contentious intensity though. It usually is much quieter than this.

Ayman said...

"It would have been of tremendous value for my blog and an honor for me if Ayman left his very valid questions about my generalization and simplification of the subject matter here."

Wallah the honor is mine ya Abu Fares! You are right, I should have commented here. But I also wanted to comment on what other fellow bloggers wrote and to start a debate in Arabic, which you thankfully enriched.

Enough was said about this topic, I guess. I would only add that the three female bloggers you mentioned are truly outstanding!


abufares said...

Thank you for commenting here and for taking the time to write about this matter in Arabic. It is my personal opinion that there is a divide between English and Arabic Syrian blogging. I think your article actually contributed in bridging this divide in a very efficient manner.
My earlier observation that there are very few bloggers/readers who comment on both sides went mostly unnoticed but I think the evidence support this hypothesis. I, for one, read most of your posts, if not all. Yet I don't comment as much as I do on English blogs. The deficiency is within us (in this case within me). Of course the language barrier is the primary cause behind this observation. It might hold true in assuming that perhaps a good percentage of Syrian Arabic bloggers/readers do not use English but the opposite is not that probable. Most of Syrian English bloggers/readers have no problem with Arabic yet their visits (as partially evidenced by their comments) are not that common. Could it be that they don't have Arabic keyboards?
Again, thank you for your visit.

JGM said...

صباح الخير أبو فارس
I'm certain the link below will be of great value to many.

GottfriedStutz said...

Thanks Abufares. I promise this will not be my last visit.

اسفرجل said...

Thank you Abu Fares for mentioning humble Esfarjel in your great blog. Just wanted to announce that Esfarjel is back to life.

abufares said...


My pleasure, especially that your blog is back to life.
Please keep a great thing going. The Syrian Blogsphere needs you.

qlpy said...

What I am totally and vehemently against is imposing religious moralities on our daily lives and making it compulsory by introducing laws that address subjects like dress code, policing the inter-mingling between genders, what should and what should not be said in public, what books should or should not be published, who’s allowed to run for elections and who’s not or sexual orientation of people.