Why A Heretic’s Blog?

In arecent and not too friendly exchangeconcerning my alleged affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, two interesting things emerged:

For one, once people have committed themselves publicly to an erroneous assumption and passed judgment on the basis of this assumption, it becomes very difficult for them to back down and recant later, not to mention to actually correct their mistake, even when their basic assumption is shown to be demonstrably wrong. For this reason, and despite the noble efforts of some commenters who actually bothered to do a little background check before jumping to conclusions, to some I now remain a possible crypto-Islamist sent to infiltrate the Democratic crowd in Congress.

The basis for this “nuanced” assumption, and this is the second point that emerged, is the name of this blog – A Heretics Blog. For if I had really seen the light, why did I not call my blog the Apostate’s Blog?

I think this is an interesting question really, and I should attempt to respond to it here, for this might clarify a few things about me, regardless how people will still end up classifying me at the end of the day.

Indeed, why not an Apostate’s Blog, after all, I am indeed an apostate, in the sense that I no longer believe in Islam (or any other religion or that matter)?

This is my two-cents.

While heresy is indeed a necessary transitional phase that every believer has to go through before finally finding himself an apostate, becoming an apostate is not the inevitable end-product of heresy. In other words, heresy is not necessarily conducive to apostasy. Indeed, it could simply lead to new interpretations of the faith, on an individual or communal basis, leading in the latter case to the emergence of schismatic movements within the faith.

In this regard, it is indeed legitimate to observe that the basic tenets of some of these movements might become so radically different from those of the “original” faith, as to represent, from the point of view of a neutral observer, new faith systems. But, and while a neutral academic observer may not have a problem classifying schismatic movements in such manner, the adherents of these movements, and those of the traditional faith, may beg to differ.

For we should be mindful here of the pejorative connotation of the terms: heretic and apostate. Indeed, the protagonists of new interpretations of the faith seldom regard themselves as heretics and/or apostates, these labels are often employed by their detractors, from other schismatic movements or from the adherents of the “original” faith. Believers often see their new interpretation of the faith as a legitimate extension of some original impetus or drive embedded in the faith (the renewalists), or as a return to the original nature of the faith (the fundamentalists and the puritans. Or in modern day parlance in our region, salafis and wahhabis).

Only a person like me, who is out to make a point by issuing a head-on challenge to traditional modes of piety and thought by advocating freedom of conscience, religion, expression and opinion, will be willing to endorse the use of the term heretic or apostate with regard to himself.

Indeed, in my case, I opted for the term heretic, because it was in heresy that I found the instrument of my freedom. If I advocate anything is the right to heresy. Apostasy, on the other hand, and while important to me personally, seems to represent a certain conclusion that may not be suitable to all. Indeed, most other heretics that I know still prefer to adhere to Islam, or to be more specific to their new and heretical version/interpretation of it, which appear much more suitable for the times at hand, from their perspective.

Muslims are not required to abandon their faith all together to be able to adjust to the requirements of modernity. The Christians surely didn’t. For no matter how unsuitable traditional faiths seem from a more rational perceptive, faith remains, in essence, a psychological phenomenon and the human psyche is all too complex and most people are quite capable of working out their own particular mental and intellectual stratagems to balance between the irrational requirements of faith and the all too rational realities of modern daily living.

Be that as it may, we have to bear in mind here as well the fact that not all heretical ventures are actually liberal, not to mention liberating. Indeed, many heresies can be quite disastrous, and tend to be much more problematic than the original faith, which the heretics found wanting. Indeed, Bin Ladin & Co. are quite the heretics, from the perspective of both the adherents to the traditional faith and the renewalists, not to mention the objective academic observer who might find their interpretation of Islam incongruous with the examples set by the “original” founders of the faith. Indeed, the heresies of Bin Ladin & Co. are not exactly what is needed for today’s Muslims to overcome their current helplessness, marginalization and backwardness. On the contrary, Bin Ladenism, its offshoots, and all similar developments in the ranks of the believers, is making life worse for them. But while most believers seem to be aware of that with regard to Bin Laden, things are not that clear with regard to people like Hassan Nasrallah for instance, who might just be far more dangerous, as he manages to bring atavistic heresies into the mainstream of our lives.

Still, heresy is the product of independent thought, and, as such, it’s the only thing that has the potential of freeing us from the clutches of ignorance. Almost every known thinker, philosopher and scientist was a heretic by his days’ standards and perhaps even by ours. It is for this reason that I advocate heresy, while reserving the right of people to take it all the way to apostasy if they want to. By naming this blog of mine A Heretic’s Blog rather than An Apostate’s Blog, I sought to make this point, which, perhaps, may not have been as obvious as I thought.

18 thoughts on “Why A Heretic’s Blog?

  1. Alex-I am sending you a present:”The Roosevelt’s were Jewish Dutch, arriving in NYC in 1682 (Originally namedClaes Rosenvelt before name change to Nicholas Roosevelt) Sarah Delano,FDR’s mother, was descended from Sephardic Jews.Joseph Stalin was originally named Joseph David Djugashvili (translatinginto “son of a Jew.”) As well, all 3 of the women he married were Jewish.Dwight Eisenhower’s father was a Swedish Jew and was so identified in theWest Point Yearbook of 1915.INTERESTING JEWISH FACTS1. Lillian Friedman married Cruz Rivera. They named their baby GeraldoMiguel Rivera.(Funny, it doesn’t sound Jewish.) Since, according to Jewishlaw, anyone born to a Jewish mother is Jewish, Geraldo Rivera is Jewish. Aswere, among others: Fiorello Laguardia, Winston Churchill and Cary Grant, asexplained below.2. Fiorello Laguardia’s mother’s name was Jacobson. His father was notJewish. Laguardia spoke seven languages — including Hebrew and Yiddish -fluently.3. 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  2. Ammar-Your a spy? Cool…are you really Steven Segal…a Jewish spy parading as a Muslim apostate cryto-Muslim, double agent? Is true you secretly smoke Camels? Is it true you drink wine and then sneak off to the bathroom and spit it out along with ham and cheese sandwich?Can I have your autograph?

  3. How about this Howie, I actually have Jewish uncles. My maternal grandfather’s first wife was an Iraqi Jew. But I have no idea about her name or her family name, because, she and my grandfather were married in Mosul, and got divorced before he fled to Syria to dodge the British draft. My grandfather was Kurdish. His second wife was a Christian Orthodox Syrian, she is my maternal grandmother, and, hence my Christian heritage. If I went on and on like that, you will discover that we have about 8 religious denominations and 4 ethnic groups in our immediate family only. This is meaning of being Syrian, this is what the region is all about. This is why nationalism and religious fanaticism are dangerous and divisive. Even in my darkest days as an Islamist, Is till listened to Wagner as I recited the Qur’an, and celebrated Christmas by decorating my dorm room with festive lights. I couldn’t decorate the mosque though when I was in LA, and I felt really bad during the holidays, because I was torn apart by my love for the warm festive spirit associated with them in my mind and soul, and the stern teachings of Islam. How can I not end up a heretic, and an apostate. Even as an Islamist I was a heretic, seeking my own interpretations of the faith. My approach to my personal life has always been “my way or the highway,” but this tendency has been tremendously tempered down after my marriage of course. Not in time to save me from exile though.

  4. And yes, you can have my autograph when we meet, and now that I have grown back my ponytail, you are not the first one to tell me that I look like Segal, albeit in his skinny days. For I have lost weight as well – a whole 25 pounds, and I have been keeping them of for a couple of months now.

  5. So, ammar what exactly are you trying to achieve anyway? Not much else left for you to do! Even your so-called ‘noble’ perspective of Syria, the region and the fake Tharwa are questionable! I’d say stick with exile and your ‘freedom’. That’s the most you’ll get!

  6. I understand your suspicion, Mustapha. But, since I am not working alone, and Tharwa is far from being fake, as the developments over the next 2-3 months will show, there is still a possibility of achieving something. Had our work not appeared serious and threatening to the regime, there would have been no exile. Yet, the Tharwa team is still quite active in Syria, Lebanon, and across the region. Heretics, whether liberal or puritan, have always been relevant to developments in our part of the world. I would venture to say that they have often been in the driver seat. Almost very Islamic school of thought represented heresy at the time of its appearance, and well-nigh all major philosophers and scientists have held and expressed heretical views by the standards of their particular community. If there is going to be a difference to be made in our region, it’s the heretics that will do it. But, whether my particular heresies will be part of that remain to be seen.

  7. Yes, ammar. I agree with the part about ‘it remains to be seen’. That’s the ONLY thing I am in agreement with.

  8. I am having a really hard time, albeit highly pleasurable, trying to imagine Ammar hanging christmas lights, reciting the Quran, and listening to Ride of the Valkyries (or was it the Forest Murmurs) all at the same time. Quite a disturbing vision.but on the subject of Apostate verses Heretic, I am confused. Why is this a continuum? And why would Heretic be leading to Apostate? That doesn’t make sense to me. I thought and apostate is just someone who gave up their believe system, whereas the Heretic… actively… put forward an antithetical and challenging new set of ideas or beliefs. Wouldn’t the Heretic be the one further along or in the more extreme? Isn’t it the apostate who might eventually become the heretic? Please explain…

  9. Mustapha if you believe in god so much why don’t you run along and worship him, I’m sure he’s waiting for your prayers. As for me, I’m certain that there is no god. To each their own.

  10. Zenobia, I said that heresy is not necessarily conducive to apostasy. But in order to become apostates, people tend to go through a heretical phase first. People don’t just give up on their faith, they tend to inadvertently negotiate their way out of it, and this translates into a temporary adoption of all different sorts of “heresies,” often personal ones, rather than existing ones. The negotiations, of course, are internal – they are negotiations with oneself, one’s mind and one’s conscience. The heresies may not necessarily be expressed in public. Some people may not feel empowered to do that until they have crossed over all the way to apostasy. Of course, I am basing this argument on my personal journey, and certain Dostoyevsky-esque and Kafka-esque influences. Mustapha, Mohammad, you are both welcome to comment on this blog. Indeed, by agreeing with the apart “it remains to be seen,” Mustapha has given me the benefit of the doubt, and I found this to be reasonable enough. It is up to us to create the necessary realities on the ground to prove our point of view. And we shall do so. We have a clearly established line of successes in this regard.

  11. Zenobia-You left out “while dancing to hava nagilah”.Don’t deny his Jewish side..er ah..his better side.

  12. No sir. I did not give you any benefit of doubt. It was clear: Stick to exile. Because, with your latest preaching, you have no where to go in Syria nor in the region. Your perceived successes, I’d say, are no more than a delusional state of mind!Intruder (Moh’d): I have no interest in Byzantine dialogues.

  13. Sorry Mustapha, I misunderstood. I stand corrected. Thanks for the advice though. But it is up to me to decide my future, and, I say, exile or not, I will make myself and my thought relevant to the process, sooner or later.

  14. ohhhh. ok, i understand what you mean.Believers often see their new interpretation of the faith as a legitimate extension of some original impetus or drive embedded in the faith (the renewalists), or as a return to the original nature of the faith (the fundamentalists and the puritans. Or in modern day parlance in our region, salafis and wahhabis).I guess you were saying here that the revisionists or the reformers and renewalists (?), such people like Martin Luther, are all versions of heretics…and they may or may not be moving towards total apostacy. and YOU are an apostate, i suppose, but… it is much more fun i think to be a heretic. I always prefer ambivalence and self-doubt to total decision. Even atheism doesn’t solve life’s mysteries for me. Your reference to “certain Dostoyevsky-esque and Kafka-esque influences” also makes a lot more clear… for these are men of great doubt and endless contemplation … who also wrote ridiculous and amazing tales of internal anguish…that are never quite satisfactorily resolved (well in Kafka’s case – not resolved at all), but for myself- that lack of resolution and conclusiveness is satisfying in itself.I think, in the final analysis, you are saying – among other things- that being heretical means that you haven’t ever made a claim to know for certain in your heart or mind your beliefs. I mean atheism might be a certainty for you or for others, but as I said that isn’t really the end all. Anyhow, engaging in public expressions of heretical ideas has apparently always been risky, not just because of challenging the powers that be, but because the ‘public’ is always demanding a kind of certainty and finality and staking of definite claims. And therefore, the heretic will always be attacked from all sides it seems. Hence -the anguish …. and the never belonging anywhere.

  15. You got it Zen: my sentiments in a nutshell. In an old poem of mine, I address God, and I say, that I disbelieve in Him, regardless of whether he exists, or not. It’s not a good poem, but, it makes the point. I choose to be an agnostic, because religion and God make absolutely no difference in the world. They cannot stop evil, not even among their followers, so, what’s the point. Might as well face the fact that we are in the final analysis alone and responsible for our deeds in an ultimate sense.

  16. Ammar, this is how I think things should be:Believing in religion or not is not the problem, even a lot people find this as vehicle to express themselves, the final aim here is to defend oneself against injustice. The final conclusion is human should not rely on other entities to find his salvation. He should start from within and should always stands for his rights. So, in this regard, I hope you know that you are standing for your rights against those powerful echelons who deprived you from your rights. You should never forget that they kicked you out of the country, humiliated you and prevented you from speaking your mind, so if you stay here in America or not, if you are apostate or heretic, it does not matter and these question are not for this political form. Also, speaking too much about oneself is kind of un attractive Narcissism. You have to remember, you are not doing us any favor by defending your self, however we the oppressed, the exiled and the people who have suffered and are suffering from this type of regime have the duty to look after our children future and ourselves. It does not take a scientist to recognize that. – your comment please-

  17. I am in total agreement with you. As for speaking about personal experiences, you have to admit I don’t do it that often, albeit this did start as personal blog, and every now and then, when there is need, it shouldn’t be so problematic. After all, narcissistic or not, I am a rather fascinating guy (teehee).

  18. I have given much thought to another question: when asked, should I call myself an apostate or an atheist? Jokingly I will refer to myself as the former, but I thing when that term is employed it is within the context of a specific political agenda, and it is very easy for it to be hijacked for the wankery of people that you would not otherwise befriendly with–like the mini-fascists at Little Green Footballs. There is also the secondary issue that using the term apostasy generally pits the object that was betrayed as the central figure, whereas there is no such connotation with atheism.But I generally agree with you that heresy is a better term than apostasy.

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