Syrian Novelist Talks About Impediments to Greater Democracy in the Arab World

By Douglas Schuette, Arab America – Washington

Washington-based democracy activist Ammar Abdulhamid says virtually no progress has been made in opening up the political system in his native Syria since he fled the country more than five years ago. He and his family were forced into exile in 2005 because of his outspoken criticism of the regime.

Abdulhamid says the situation has instead grown “increasingly dismal,” with more crackdowns on political opponents than ever before. Continue reading

A Few Heresies in Honor of the Ramadan Season!

Ramadan. The most hedonistic time of the Muslim year. So, hedonistic, in fact, it might as well be called the Muslim Christmas or Hanukah. Indeed, human nature, when given the chance, tends to bastardize all rituals and observances meant to celebrate our loftier desires and yearnings. So be it. I really don’t have much problem with this particular human contradiction. I much rather the heterogeneity of individualized bastardization than the homogeneity of collective ritualistic observance.

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We, the Barbarians!

Have all leaders, religious and political, in the so-called Muslim World, become illiterate all of a sudden? Or are they intent on using every little opportunity that presents itself to prove in deed what they continue to deny in words, namely: that Islamic civilization and culture are dead, and that Muslims are adamant on continuing their head-long descent into barbarity? Continue reading

Diversity and Turmoil

First posted on my short-lived blog Tharwalizations. 

Diversity in our region creates certain dynamics that are simply too complex to be tackled through some facile generalizations. In this regard, and while Arabs across the region and the world seem to stand in solidarity with Hezbollah, the Bedouins in Israel seem to have a different opinion on this matter. Indeed, the Bedouins seem to “bitterly resent Hezbollah,” since of its Katyusha rockets tend to fall at them. Also, and contrary to how many Arabs feel with regard to the US, the Bedouins of Israel “don’t think the U.S. is engaged in a war against Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and elsewhere. They think Arab anger around the world can be laid at the feet of dictators who spread misinformation to distract people from inept rule.”  Continue reading

Copts, Women & Beer

First posted on my short-lived blog Tharwalizations. 

In a conference on civil dialogue that took place a few years ago, participants discussed the possibility of conducting a serious dialogue between Islamists and secularists. I remember that, at the time and in response to an Egyptian colleague who advocated dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood in his country, we coined the term “Copts, Women and Beer” to reefer to three main issues that one needs to deal with, which are: diversity issues, gender issues and privacy issue.   Continue reading

Reform starts with a Lebanon withdrawal

Special to The Daily Star

The Syrian regime did not have to find itself in the precarious position it is in today, maligned by all for its behavior. It did not have to find itself facing sanctions imposed by the United States. It did not have to face United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, calling for a Syrian pullout from Lebanon. And it did not have to face the outrage expressed after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

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