Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"Not a Mirage" (ليس سراباً)

I recently watched the entire 32-episode Syrian series called "Not a Mirage," or ليس سراباً in Arabic (pronounced laysa saraban). The series tackles several important and controversial issues present in our society, the most important of which is sectarianism and religious fundamentalism, but also includes such prominent topics as women's rights, civil society (or absence thereof), honor killings, and love relationships. The story revolves around a divorced single "Christian" mother, Hanan, who happens to fall in love with a divorced "Muslim" father of two, Jalal, and the ensuing relationship that arises out of this love. But the prevalent social attitudes prevent the couple from making their relationship public, and create a host of obstacles and problems that keep them from leading normal lives together. Their obligation to keep the relationship secret, due to the social ills from which our people suffer, is a clear recipe for disaster.

The series does a good job of addressing controversial topics and breaking taboos in a courageous and thought-provoking manner. Our society's attitude toward women is expressed and demonstrated by the roles to which most members of our society believe women should be confined. A prime example is the attitude of Hanan's father toward her being a divorced woman, which he views with utter disgust and disdain, even though Hanan's ex-husband was a corrupt figure who regularly abused his wife physically and psychologically. The position of the father was that many things happen between a man and a woman that should remain inside their home. That his daughter was being beaten, and that her dignity and honor were being stepped on, is of no concern to him, as it is more important that his daughter resort to her natural role of the obedient wife. This is a mentality that is quite pervasive in our society, as women are viewed, to a large extent, as servants of their husbands who are required and expected to obey their husbands and remain under their control, irrespective of how they are treated.

The series also ponders the proper role of religion; whether it is to be a pure spiritual and moral guide being completely separate from matters involving the state and the political system, or whether it should govern all aspects of our lives, including political and judicial national matters. Michel, the owner and publisher of a controversial magazine prints an article in his publication criticizing the role that religious institutions have played in involving themselves in issues that are outside the natural role of religion, calling for the inception of a secular system. His article becomes the target of ire and revulsion from members of all religious sects in our nation, as they all view it as an attack on religion, rather than a mere criticism of the contribution of religious institutions to sectarianism, religious fundamentalism, and the absence of the civil society.

This leads to another article printed by Michel's magazine that addresses the absence of the civil society, as our laws, especially those dealing with family and personal status, are governed by religious jurisprudence and institutions. As such, citizens are not treated as members of a single nation with equal rights and duties, but are rather subjected to different rules and procedures depending upon their confessional background. This article again draws intense anger from members of society, as they see it as a blasphemous call for secularism. The feeling is such that, Jalal's son, who becomes indoctrinated as a fundamentalist Islamist, regards Michel as a "sectarian Christian" who is introducing a "corrupt, western" idea of secularism in order to advance a sectarian agenda.

It is highly important that such matters begin to be discussed and addressed in our society, as we suffer from many ailments that need to be treated and cured if we are to experience a renaissance and come out of the coma in which we continue to be stuck. When young men are shown cheering and encouraging a fellow citizen for murdering his sister for "honorable" reasons, attention is brought to a sick mentality that drives many of our people. It is a step in the right direction that will hopefully open the door to further self-examinations and self-critiques that can help make us a better, more advanced, more dynamic society.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Arab "Reconciliation": The Latest Joke

As we've recently heard in the news, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad met on Wednesday with King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt as part of an effort to reconcile the so-called "differences" between the Arab states that had caused relations to sour in the last few years. The reports coming out of this meeting is that it was "positive" and "constructive" and that a "mechanism" was agreed upon to help these states deal with future issues that may be a cause of discord.

First, to suggest that this was an attempt at reconciling the differences that have arisen between different Arab states, while at the same time uninviting Qatar, an important party to those so-called "disagreements," at the request of Egypt appears quite disingenuous and leads one to believe that alterior motives are at play. It is illogical for "Arabs" to be negotiating an end to the rift that has materialized in the last several years when a major Arab player is left out of the negotiations.

Second, the argument that there are mere "disagreements" between the two "camps" of the Arab World which need to be reconciled is completely contrary to the truth and to the reality of the events. There are no "Arab disagreements" between Syria on the one hand, and Saudi Arabia and Egypt on the other hand. It is not as if these states were working toward achieving a common goal and serving a common interest and had mere disagreements on the best means of achieving that goal and serving that interest. What there was in reality is clear collaboration by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Egypt with the enemies of our nation and an active participation of these states in the war against our people. Egypt and Saudi Arabia both played a dirty and sinister role in joining forces with the US and "Israel" to help them destroy our honorable Resistance against the brutal and criminal occupation of our land. Because these Arab regimes failed miserably in their endeavor, as their master "Israel" was defeated in its wars against our people, and because Syria stood steadfast with our people's right to resist their oppressors, these Arab regimes began to hold a grudge against Syria as it denied them their chance to please and obediently serve their masters.

The actions of these Arab states were not simple disagreements over a means to a common end. They were clear, unambiguous crimes against our people and their right to fight and struggle for their dignity and freedom. Egypt's role in helping the Jewish state starve and kill our people in occupied Palestine made it into a tool for the enemy. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's endless efforts to help "Israel" destroy the Resistance in Lebanon once and for all puts it in the same column with the Jewish entity. There is therefore nothing over which to reconcile. There are not mere "differences" between various parts of a common cause. There is rather a clear collaborator and criminal on one side and a clear defender of just rights on the other.

Unless and until these Arab regimes recognize their crimes and desist from denying our people their national rights, including their legitimate right to resist a brutal occupation and defend themselves against a barbaric enemy, then all these meetings and negotiations are futile, as they cannot possibly produce any fruitful results.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Let "Them" Accept Secularism First

It has become a common declaration among many of our people whenever they are confronted with the issue of secularism. "If 'they' accept secularism, then we would be happy to have a secular country." That is, they justify their sectarian mentalities and feign support for secularism by claiming that it is the other sects that refuse to accept secularism and therefore they have no choice but to embrace sectarianism. This is of course a bogus argument intended merely to rationalize their deeply embedded sectarian sentiments and their vehement opposition to secularism.

To claim that the only thing keeping you from accepting secularism is "their" sectarianism and "their" rejection of secular principles demonstrates a clear, unambiguous sectarian, divisive mentality, as you divide our people into "us" and "them." There is a clear matter of principle that we have to decide. Do we view our nation as one society and one people with one interest and one life? Or do we treat our nation as a collection of sects with differing and competing interests? If your position is in line with the former, then you should, under this principle, reject any notion of "us" vs. "them" and apply your ideals equally to the nation as a whole. If you believe in the latter, then no amount of explanations and rationalizations can disguise your inherent sectarian view of society.

As for the very logic behind such statements, its nonexistence is clear to the astute and conscious citizen. An individual who claims that he/she cannot embrace secularism until the "other side" does so first is merely a declaration that he/she does not wish to let go of his/her sectarian attitude. And just who is this individual expecting to embrace secular principles? There are citizens of our nation of all backgrounds who have adopted secular ideals, so who is this individual referring to when they proclaim that "they" must first accept secularism? They are in reality astoundingly implying that sectarian groups from other sects must accept secularism before sectarian groups from this individual's sect can be expected to transform into secular organizations. Such an outrageous condition is placed knowing full well that no sectarian organization is ready to tolerate, much less promote, secularism, or they wouldn't be sectarian to begin with.

Until we forever drop all divisive thoughts from our mindset, we can continue to expect to experience woes and disasters. The categorization of our people into "us" and "them" is representative of a diseased mentality of which the nation must rid itself. The only solution to all our ailments is the realization that we are one nation with one interest in life.