Heretical Correspondences (Part 1)!

…If our leftwing intellectuals think of themselves as the walking martyrs of the modern Arab cause, and the last standard bearers of the values of true social justice and true cultural integrity, however they define truth and integrity, and if this stand of theirs should get them some popular sympathy someday, though I won’t hold my breath, we, the liberal intellectuals, I mean the really liberal intellectuals, the ones who are too secular even for socialist tastes and too concerned with individual rights to accommodate any faith, are simply-put the modern-day scarecrows and ghouls who will be despised by one and all long into the future even if, no, especially if time ended up proving us right.

We have become simply too cut off from our alleged cultural roots to be understood and appreciated. Indeed, people simply don’t understand why we insist on claiming that we are still Arabs, although, we no longer subscribe to that ethos of vainglory and victimhood that has long become part and parcel of modern Arab identity. To them, modern Arab identity is a faith, a very defined faith, with its own values system, its own moral code, its own esoteric teachings even that only the initiates can learn and appreciate through some sort of refurbished catechisms. There is no room for introspection here, only the illusion thereof. And we are damned because we can no longer share that illusion.

We have become too liberal to continue to remain victims to this particular illusion. We have become too liberal to fit in the national vision and plan of all the rest – the leftists, the Islamists, the regimes, the powers-that-be, and the powers-that-simply-can-never-be.

Meanwhile, it is clear that our own vision for the region, which, contrary to popular beliefs and perceptions, does not consist of a simple act of copy-and-paste of all things western, is in itself too esoteric to be fulfilled in our lifetimes. For modernity has already been exported/imported, in all its western glory, all that remains is for it to be thoroughly assimilated. Considering the state of the product being digested, and the very state of our digestive system these days, the process is bound to be quite difficult and painful.

So, the best that we can ever be at this stage is to be the perennial fly in the ointment of all the rest, and hope that by sheer sweat, and some blood perhaps, we can start some new fermentation process that can spark the advent of it all. And we might just end up being the true awaited messiahs. Indeed, we can never be too liberal for the Messiah Complex, andthat is why we still care about the region, and that is why we are still Arabs, the new Arab faith notwithstanding.

23 thoughts on “Heretical Correspondences (Part 1)!

  1. nassralla´s happy days are far behind. like nasser arab people will chrich him for a decade and then dump him in the garbage…arab history is sick like its people who do not know how to live in peace exept if governed by dictators and criminals.:)

  2. HI,I simply loved reading this particular blog and was pleased to know someone out there has described how it feels to be an Arab Liberal so perfectly well, so better than anyone. Thank you..

  3. I second Micha…It’s also refreshing to know that there are other Syrian seculars out there…I wonder what anonymous meant by his comment???

  4. I like your summing up of liberal thinking. Ammar, I do like your liberal views for very different reason. You are not like old fashion liberal in the Middle East you are the first one to say that what happening out there are our own making. The first time in liberal thinking history we are facing the truth, that all the bad things happening around us, we are the ones to be blamed for not others.

  5. Ammar, You are the light at the end of the tunnel. You represent the hope for a better middle-east and a better Arab world. It is a real shame that you have to promote these opinions from the outside and are unable to express them openly in Syria. Keep up the good work, it is a pleasure reading this blog.

  6. The middle east has become intellectually drained , and with the continuas opression , poverty and social injustice the fundamentals were able to fulfill every gap where intellectualls couldnt reach and couldnt give any solution and were unable to creat any waving or social uprising.and as you mentioned in your previos post Ammar we are currently having a problem with our “arab” or “national” identity where religion is taking over , and we just cant keep shutting our eyes on this fundamental rising.from the other hand what is left from “arab nationalists” or the “left wing” are those whom their creativity ends with the “western conspiracy against us” , and their ambition stops at Nasrallah. Arab libirals has to come with new waves and revolutinary winds and new spirit and we have to keep raising our voices until we can break this inanimateness

  7. Ishtar,With all due respect, you need to work on your English – at least in order to make your point across somewhat legibly! You can then start thinking of ‘higher objectives’. Here are couple questions for you to think about. What gives you the right to question the validity of the choice of the vast majority? Would you be willing to come down to earth in order to fully understand the issues that drive these people to such choices – obviously unpalatable to your taste? Be aware that the last question may involve giving up too many things that could be very dear to you! So you cannot simply theorize the answer!!!

  8. Anonymous, there is nothing wrong with having a stand and a point of view, you obviously have one yourself. What is wrong is to impose our stands and choices on others. I don’t think Ishtar is advocating that. She is only suggesting that the liberals might have in their hands some of the right answers, or all of them, time will tell whether she, or I, are right or wrong. So long as the approaches being advocated do not transgress against other’s basic rights, we are entitled to express our views even if they are a bit dismissive of other views (but not the right of others to express their views). Also, if Ishtar’s English was good enough for you to find something in her reply to respond to, than it is good enough, period.

  9. Ammar,I’m really surprised, in fact astonished, that you only saw my criticism of Ishtar and not the point I’m making, which could very well serve your purpose! This tells me that the time frame you’re looking at may extend to centuries not few decades! So, we won’t be around to witness who is right and who is wrong!

  10. HI Anonymous, indeed, I usually to phrase things much more diplomatically and try to take account of all the points being made, but I am multi-tasking ad nauseam these days, and I think this is beginning to influence the quality of my thought process. As for the time frame, I am definitely thinking in terms of decades, but you never know in this world what could happen. The majority might just overrule us every step of the way and opt for an approach that can set us back for centuries. But democracy is about individual rights not majority rights, and, one day our majorities have to understand that if democracy is to ever have a chance to flourish in our midst. I think this is the basic point I was trying to make, and I do’t think you’d disagree with that.

  11. Of course I do not disagree with your point. It is absolutely valid in well established democracies. Being so detached from the realities of the ME, as your main article clearly indicates, may yet invalidate it. Again, there is no escape from going down to earth to tackle the real issues. This is where the ‘opponents’, if you may accept the term, excel and score their points – they’re deep down at the root level, dedicated, pragmatic, and very much part of the problem as well as the solution. Being so detached on the other hand is ideal for futility and eventual perpetual failure!

  12. Indeed, the struggle for relevance in the region will not be an easy one for us liberals. But, even here in my place of exile, the Tharwa Project still supplies me with some regional tentacles. So, I believe I am doing what I can.

  13. AnonymousFirst , sory if my english is not up to your level.second , im very down to earth person and you are very wrong to suggest that i may have to give up anything simply because i dont . I live in this region and im very well aware of the reality , im palestenian who knows how it is to live in a refugee camp and how it is to pass the daily humiliation in the israely borders and how it is to have half of your family in israely jails , and i currently live in cairo within millions of people who work very hard to come back home at the end of the day with couple of pounds hardly enough to buy some bread for their children…. and most of all i know that faith is the only thing left for those people to cling on. and i have the right to question whatever i want to question ,even if its the majority choice . i think i was clear enough when i said “with the continuas opression , poverty and social injustice the fundamentals were able to fulfill every gap where intellectualls couldnt reach “and if its not clear then to make it clear again i meant to say that the circumstances under which we live can lead people to fundamental choices , because neither the regime nor the “intellectals” nor anyone else are giving them any other solutions.maybe i said “we” but im not including my humble self with those who should bring the “higher objectives” , but still i can say my openion and still i can hope that this reality will ever change that we will stop blaming the west and start looking at our own defects , that our ambition will be much higher than the small “victory” of nasrallah , that people will have more intellectual recources than their own religion and this is the responsibility of the arab intellectuals , to open new visions and new horizons for our people , because change will never happen without the people.

  14. Ishtar-I liked what Ricardo Montalban once said when somebody made fun of his accent “hey..my accent means I speak at least one other language…can you?”Anyhow…i read your post with interest and agree with many of your points…but I want to ask, to what point are the Palestinians, by virtue of the choices made by your leaders, responsible for much of their own suffering? Israeli’s often treat Palestinians badly…and Palestinians have not been exactly loving towards us.From an Israeli perspective…and I always get yelled at for this…the “humiliation” is not some type of national sport or pastime. “You” as searched and hassled because of the smuggling of bombs, not to mention drugs and stolen goods. Did you know that every ISRAELI is also searched…each time we walk into a store, food joint, post office, airport. I have been searched dozens of times. It is about security.But…your other points are well-taken about fundalmentalism filling the vacum left by failed secular leadership. Unfortunately, Muslim fundalmentalism has nothing to offer you really, especially as a woman. Just ask an Iranian.Welcome to the blog.

  15. HowiethanksFirst to conclude my point about fundamentals ,and to be clear am not at all trying to justify them im only trying to explain (maybe to myself more than to others ), because i dont take their rising for granted , i keep asking and searching and here am only suggesting why they are taking over this way , its very scary and its very frustrating and i dont need to ask iranian women am abviosly very well aware of the fundamental danger not only for women but for the whole society.Now to your point about palestinians , please lets not make any comparison between what you may go through for security check in your airports with what palestinians have to pass daily in the west bank and gaza , you seem to be very well educated unbiased israely and am sure you are well aware of the unhumane behavior of your army and mostly the border guards in the check points.Palestenians made wrong choices , missed many chances , came up with corrupt leadership…what else?i agree on all that , but at the end the people are the victims not the leadership and you were very good in collective punishments. Am too frustrated from the way the palestinian struggle shifted from throwing stones to suicide bombers , but can you also take your responsibility on that ?because you also made the wrong choices , the choice to let hamas grow on account of fatah ,(you didnt think you would raise a monster did you?) , the choice to keep occupying to keep opressing to keep starving the palestenian population , and the very most stupid choice to keep few hundreds of provoking fanatic jewish settlers live in the middle of more than 100,000 palestenians in hebron , and your frequent choices to put those 100,000 under curfew so that the few hundreds can continue their provocation without disturbance…and you still expect palestinians to be more “loving towards you”..?so yes we made wrong choices Howie..we both did…

  16. Ishtar-There are things we will not agree on and that we will see much differently…however I feel happy and honored to have this chance to have a dialouge with you.Treatment at the borders…I see that in much the way I see police types in general. They have the stories of trusting somebody who then murdered, of being cursed and abused etc. So will a natural tension begin..yes. And some people coming through have very bad intentions. Israel made bad choices…I think so. I think the worse was the continuation of the Lebanese war in 1982. With regards to the Palestinians…the situation did not happen over night…it started long before 1947. Much of the “abuse”, from my view, is based on bad past experiences and the statements of many Palestinians…that you won’t accept us and want to kill us (I am using the editorial “you” and don’t mean Ishtar).Oh…it is a complicated matter. It is about our history of being murdered, betrayed, having no power. It is about religion, prophecy and economics and politics.But mostly it is about lack of faith in you…lack of trust. Fear, like with the evacuation of Gaza, that the murdering won’t stop and only get worse.Even your own words…about being sorry for having moved from throwing stones to suicide bombing. Then there is no option besides some form of violence? Don’t you understand that trying to terrorize us into submission only hardens us? We should have started talking, without stones or bombs long ago. But I will say it again…you have some very valid points that I do not deny. But I just have not seen anything smart come out of Palestinian leadership…this is 60 years now…is more of what never worked going to work? Please think about that last question.Oh and regarding searches…it is not just airports it is everywhere. But the meaning behind them is more important…”I have to get searched because some manic might walk into this ice cream palor and blow up”. That too is humiliating.

  17. Ishtar and howieregardless of the outcome of your dialogue, it is good that you are talking and I hope you will continue to do so. Conflicts among nations tend to dehumanise individuals. We should fight back by remaining human and open to each other’s thoughts and feelings.Ammar, thank you for making it possible for people to have meaningful debates on your blog.

  18. Indeed, Philip, I think this dialogue between Ishar and Howie is very important. There are a lot of emotions involved, but so is a lot of humanity and common sense. I hope to see more of this in the future.

  19. Philip IUnless I get irritated…I try to avoid debate and focus on finding the truth. So yeah…I like the word dialouge better.By trade…I am a marriage counselor. When folks first come to therapy…there have been years of pent-up hostilites often. Typically, the first few sessions involve a lot of accusation, blaming, finger pointing and ATTEMPTING TO PUNCTUATE HISTORY. This is the “only did “A” because you had done “B” and then the retrot “well I only did “B” because you did “C”.Our problem began around the time of Hagar, Sara, Ishamel and Abe. That is a LOT of finger pointing and “you started it”. I hope Ishtar keeps coming back. One thing you lose in right in voice tone. Can’t tell if somebody is explaining, accusing, yelling etc. In this case…I am trying to help her understand the Israeli perspective. A key point is that when Israeli’s hassle Palestinians…overall, it is because of the potential threat some pose. Remember…they get hassled coming from “their” territory into “our” territory (for the most part). Heck…many Israeli’s have been lynched just for making a wrong turn, literally, and ending up on their side of the street. So it goes both ways.The key is how do we stop it. And there is NOT a simple answer. I could write a book on the complications. I fight this over in my head almost every day…I can’t come up with an answer…

  20. Thank you Ammar and PhilipPhilip i saw your post about secular israely palestinian federation and ill be commenting on that.Howie i aslo refer to israel stand in general when i say “you”.As you stated the situation is very complicated and there are many aspects and there are many things that we’ll agree or disagree on.1)”they get hassled coming from “their” territory into “our” territory (for the most part). Heck…many Israeli’s have been lynched just for making a wrong turn”Geographically its not very true because , the settelements are spreaded randomly all over the west bank and thus the checkpoints are INSIDE the palestinian territories , palestinans have to drive in a “maze” to avoid them, its true that there were cases were israelies were lynched but those were few cases , many israelies enter the west bank without any problems , in anycase the check points are not the only problem nor they are the major problem , palestinians are living under OCCUPATION , this is the problem!! 2)”Even your own words…about being sorry for having moved from throwing stones to suicide bombing”So what do you excpect? not any sort of struggle? dont forget that you are an occupying force , am against suicide bombing ,am against it in concept , its an immoral crime against civilians , against the bomber himself and against his society who are brainwashed with this.but when you are raised in curfews , your brother or father in jail or either killed by idf , when you are daily provoked by fanatic settlers , when your family starve infront of you and you cant get a job , when the roof above you is not solid enough to protect you from rain , what you expect to get ? an angel? no sadly you get a monster , regardless of “who” brought to this situation , this is the reality under which those people are living , and again im still against suicide bombers , but you cant deny the palestenian right to struggle , and am against violence in general but violence leads to violence , its a circle in which you are playing major part.3)”like with the evacuation of Gaza, that the murdering won’t stop and only get worseEvacution that will be refilled in the the westbank as an expansion plan for the settlements!You cant separate gaza from the westbank its one unit , without overall solution you will get NO WHEREand lets not mention Gaza now , because it will open a pandora box , do you know how many people were killed in gaza during the last israely offensive on lebanon?or the life of those people doesnt count? or were they undeliberatly killed as per the eternal israely claim after each killing??4)this is 60 years now…is more of what never worked going to work? Please think about that last question.Howie comon , its not like you were very generous and palestinians were refusing your generosity , lets not forget whos the victim herebut YES i still beleive in peace ,i think that the majority of the palestinian people want only to have a normal peacfull life IN AN INDEPENDENT STATE , but we still have a lot to work on , too much hatred and hostiloty were accumulated in both sides, but with dialouge between me “the palestinians” and you “the israelies” we can pass many bridges and break many borders.

  21. Ishtar-Oh…we could go back and forth on this one. But let me just address one..the checkpoints. And here is a piece by an Arab Moslem who explains it well:”The latest public opinion poll in the Palestinian Authority territories shows that some 61 percent of Palestinians support “military operations” inside Israel compared with only 32% who reject such attacks.The poll, conducted by the Center for Opinion Polls and Survey Studies at An-Najah University in Nablus, covered some 1,360 Palestinians whose age group is above 18. Its margin of error is about 3%.” It is not about wanting to humiliate…it is about not wanting to be blown up.

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