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Heavy metal, Middle Eastern band of brothers!

Who knew heavy metal could promote peace?  But that’s just what’s happening as the Israeli band, Orphaned Land, and the Palestinian band, Khalas, have toured Britain.  They come from different countries.  They even write different kinds of lyrics. But they have shown how art has an ability to transcend lines that politics often can’t.

Who knew heavy metal could promote peace? But that’s just what’s happening as the Israeli band, Orphaned Land, and the Palestinian band, Khalas, have toured Britain. They come from different countries. They even write different kinds of lyrics. But they have shown how art has an ability to transcend lines that politics often can’t.

We’re constantly bombarded by implicit and explicit images of the relationship that Jews and Muslims supposedly have in today’s world. We are bombarded with the cliched reminder that we “used to get along” but recently have become enemies.

We’ve almost become used to it, accepted it as some sort of reality.

And, ironically, all these “interfaith” events can often cause us to feel even more disconnected. They just don’t seem as genuine as a true connection. It would seem the only people you would need to show such “unity” with is people you don’t get along with.

Which is why we need to look deeper. We need to look wider. We need to see that “unity” doesn’t mean press. It doesn’t mean “shows of support”. It means genuine connection and giving.

And the truth is that the world is scattered with that. The truth is that the press likes to say just one side of the story, likes to focus on conflict. But there is unity. There is connection.

All we need to do is look!

Listen as the tour leaders speak of their unity and message:

Sources: Sky News, PopChassid, metalinjection.net, The Guardian, alarabiya.net, cnn.com

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March 26, 2015 Posted by | Arab lifestyle, Geography, Human Rights, Interfaith, Peace, Religious Reconciliation, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Considering Islam, terrorism and war

ISIS fighters rally in Iraq as they advance towards Baghdad.

ISIS fighters rally in Iraq as they advance towards Baghdad. This extremist Sunni group has announced plans to rule the territory it has carved out of Iraq and Syria in recent months.

Sam Dammam

During the past two years Sam has traveled to remote areas of Saudi Arabia, speaking with desert  Bedouins, city dwellers and government leaders. He has gained a remarkable understanding of Islam and the Saudi culture. (Click photos to enlarge.)

(Article last updated 7 February 2015, 11:01 pm)

Recently I received several questions from American friends. They are questions that have also troubled me since moving to Saudi Arabia two-and-a-half years ago. The questions: “When will Sunni and Shia Muslims stop fighting each other?” and “How can Muslims commit such horrible atrocities?” and “Doesn’t the evil of terrorism discredit Islam?”

A view from the heart of Islam

I have lived in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for two-and-a-half years now. I’ve asked just about every difficult question that could possibly be asked, and I have actually been on the lookout for “extremists” to try to get a better understanding of what makes them think the way the do. So far I have found possibly one.

The Muslim brothers and sisters I have here are, for the most part, rational men and women who dislike bigotry, hatred and war. They simply want a nation that has a sound economy. They want good educations and prosperous futures for their children and grandchildren. However, they are quite concerned about how others outside the Kingdom view their Muslim faith.

As I answer the above questions, I do not intend in any way to excuse some of the obvious hatred and bigotry among peoples and groups who refer to themselves as Muslims. But in living here in the Mecca Region, the very heart of Islam, I have gained what I believe to be a valid perspective, having completed the grueling difficulties of Hajj with friends from our local neighborhood mosque, and having visited Mecca on many occasions and Medina once.

Also, millions of Muslim pilgrims from all over the world travel in and out of Jeddah every year on their way to Mecca, just 35 miles down the road. I mingle with them as they come and go. I have also developed friendships with some of the migrant workers resident in Saudi Arabia—most who are Muslim.

Lest we forget our own Western “Christian” wars

The American Civil War found brother against brother and Christian against Christian to end slavery.

The American Civil War found brother fighting against brother and Christian fighting against Christian in a war to end slavery.

While we are astounded at what we see every night on television, I can imagine that many Muslims of the 19th and 20th century must have asked these same questions when observing wars in the West.

One might consider the American Civil War, that pit Southern Christians who supported slavery against northern Christians who, for the most part, opposed slavery. More than 620,000 American combatants died, and there were more than 450,000 casualties among American civilian men, women and children.

In reference to that War Between the States, President Abraham Lincoln stated in his second inaugural address: “Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered.”

During the First World War and the Second World War “Christian nations” battled “Christian nations” for supremacy. It was a time when oligarchies made alliances with religious groups and political parties (fascism) for one political objective or another. Allied armies responded in force.

Even more recently we have had the Irish Republican Army (IRA) battling it out with the Presbyterian Orange Order of Northern Ireland. Countless kidnappings, murders, and bombings were carried out during the 1960s and 1970s. Homes were torched and innocent men, women and children were caught in the crossfire.

Today in South Sudan we find Christian militia battling Christian militia for power and control, and in the Central African Republic Chrisitan militias have taken up arms against Muslims. A UN report indicates the militias are guilty of ethnic cleansing.

Islam–divisions and factions

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ISIS and similar extremist groups are un-Islamic. They do not represent Islam any more than the KKK represents Christianity.

One cannot think simply of Islam as a united faith where all believers are in agreement. Islam has many divisions and factions.

Greater than eighty percent of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims are said to be Sunni. Among Sunnis are thousands of offshoots.

In recent years, some self-proclaimed Sunni leaders, like those of ISIS (also known as IS, ISIL or Daesh), have managed to organize radical militias, enlisting soldiers while amassing funding by pillaging towns, cities, businesses and homes as they pass through.

ISIS has a radical agenda of organizing a caliphate (an Islamic state) from parts of Syria and Iraq. Their leaders have ordered Iraqi Christians living within their proposed state to convert to Islam, pay taxes or die.

To say that these fanatical Muslims who lob grenades at each other shouting “Allah akbar!” (“God is great!”) are representative of all Islam would be like saying the IRA is a bona fide movement of the Catholic Church.

I don’t know a lot about ISIS, but I can honestly say that some Islamic hate groups are to Islam what the National Socialist White People’s Party (NWSPP) and Ku Klux Klan (KKK) are to Christianity. Fortunately, most Americans are keenly aware that the NWSPP and KKK are certainly not “Christian” in the traditional sense, but both racist groups do claim to represent “white, Christian America.”

Islam and illiteracy

It is unfortunate that millions of Muslims today, especially those living in poorer nations, cannot read or write.

While education of both girls and boys is promoted throughout the Muslim world, some Muslim populations have fallen under the influence of radical Islamists who have political objectives that are extra-quranic. They forbid the education of girls and endorse only principled Islamic texts for educational purposes.

While many of those who are illiterate are able to recite long passages of the Qur’an, I was surprised to find that some have no idea what they are reciting. While the Arabic of the Qur’an is beautiful, flowing wonderfully with sounds and syllables, it is an ancient language that many who recite it don’t understand. It would be like a Catholic quoting from the Latin Vulgate Bible–not knowing the meaning or nuances of the Latin sentences and words.

It has been pointed out to me by men in my mosque that there are many who are born into Islam and refer to themselves as “Muslim,” but they actually have no idea what it means to truly be Muslim. They have little knowledge of who Mohammad was and the principles for which he stood.

War is hell, and horrible atrocities happen in all wars–even at the hands of western forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, when radical Muslims who are politically motivated present themselves to be acting on behalf of God, the consequences can be disastrous. One man commanding a group of disenfranchised, uneducated, illiterate  followers can wreak havoc on a nation (eg Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al Shabaab in Somalia, ISIS in Iraq and Syria, etc.).

The Sunni – Shia differences

Sunnis (about 80 per cent of Muslims) and Shiites (15- 20 per cent) have waged deadly sectarian wars.

Sunnis (about 80 per cent of Muslims) and Shiites (11 – 15 per cent) have waged deadly sectarian wars.

Now we come to the historic Sunni—Shia divide.

I do not pretend to know all there is to know about what caused the evolution of Shia Islam and the succeeding Sunni resentment that followed. I have met a few Shia Muslims and have spoken with my Sunni Muslim friends about the matter. It appears that the battle is over something that happened nearly 1400 years ago; a deviation from the original faith observed by the Prophet Mohammad.

The Sunni branch of Islam believes that the first four caliphs (Mohammed’s successors) rightfully took his place as the leaders of Islam. They recognize the heirs of the first four caliphs as legitimate religious leaders. These heirs ruled continuously in the Arab world until the break-up of the Ottoman Empire following the end of the First World War.

Shia Islam, in contrast, teaches that only the heirs of the fourth caliph, Ali, are the legitimate successors of Mohammed. Shiites seem to be more mystical in nature—some paying homage and praying to Ali and his descendants.

In some Shia homes in Iran, one will find “icons” honoring Ali. Shiites make pilgrimages to what is believed to be Ali’s gravesite in Iraq. Some speak of the miracles Ali has performed on their behalf.

Sunnis compare such behavior to idolatry, and they believe that any form of idolatry is anathema and worthy of “hell fire.” Indeed, the Qur’an says that no one should worship idols or pay homage to humans or other created entities. Even pictures of the Prophet Mohammed are forbidden.

I have visited Mohammed’s tomb at the Nabawī Mosque (also known as the Prophet’s Mosque) in Medina. There are guards posted at Mohammad’s sepulcher to prevent Muslims from praying or paying homagevenerating the Prophet.

Protestant Reformation–wars and conflicts 

I find the Sunni-Shia divide to bear somewhat similarities to the great debate that took place between Protestants and Catholics during the great Reformation of the 16th and 17th centuries. Protestants separated from Roman Catholics, debating similar issues. Reformation leaders like Martin Luther, John Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli and others sought to eliminate many of the corruptions and accesses that were then present within Roman Catholicism.

Luther ignited the Reformation by posting his “Ninety-five Theses” on the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany. That church held one of Europe’s largest collections of holy relics. These religious relics had been gathered by Frederick III of Saxony. At that time, pious veneration of relics were said by Rome to give relief from temporal punishment for sins in “purgatory.” By 1520, Frederick had over 19,000 relics, purportedly “including vials of the milk from the Virgin Mary, straws from the manger of Jesus’ birth and the body of one of the innocents massacred by King Herod.”

ISIS is now destroying Shia, Sunni and Sufi mosques around Mosul. In this photo posted on a militant website that frequently carries official statements from the Islamic State extremist group, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, Shiite's Jawad Husseiniya mosque explodes in Tal Afar, Iraq.

ISIS is now destroying Shia, Sunni and Sufi shrines and mosques around Mosul. Iraq. In this photo posted on a militant website that frequently carries official ISIS statements, Shia’s Jawad Husseiniya mosque is demolished in Tal Afar.

As reformers allied themselves with kings and rulers vicious wars ensued between Catholics and Protestants. Horrible atrocities were committed. Many of the reformers were imprisoned, burned at the stake, beheaded, hanged or dismembered.

Conflicts between some Shia and Sunni Muslims continue today. ISIS is further advancing its radical religious agenda by destroying Shiite mosques and Islamic shrines around the ancient Iraqi city of Mosul, which they captured last month. Al Arabiya reported that the damage extends to at least four shrines to Sunni or Sufi figures, and six Shiite mosques in the northern province of Nineveh.

Pictures surfacing on social media showed the destruction, ISIS troops accomplished with explosives and bulldozers. They appeared on a militant website that was verified by the Associated Press as being an outlet  for official ISIS statements. The photos were posted under the headline, “Demolishing shrines and idols in the state of Nineveh.”

The vast majority of Shias and Sunnis live in friendship together side by side. They say it is security and stable economies their families need, not misguided extremists stirring up trouble.

I pray that peace and reconciliation between these two contending bodies of believers might be possible in the same way that eventual dialogue, appeasement and understanding have taken place between Protestants and Catholics during the past century. After all, Islam means to “voluntarily surrender” to the God of Abraham. It also implies “peace” and “safety.”

Current situation in Syria and Iraq

Millions of Syrian refugees have fled the civil war in search of safety, medical treatment, food and temporary housing.

Millions of Syrian refugees have fled the civil war in their homeland in search of safety, medical treatment, food and temporary housing.

I liken the present situation in Syria and Iraq to that of the former Yugoslavia.

Yugoslavia had come into existence as a result of treaties at the end of the First World War. Serbia (which then included the present-day Republic of Macedonia), Montenegro, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, and Slovenia were forcibly joined, and after the Second World War these Balkan states were brought under Josip Tito’s communist dictatorship as the Iron Curtain of atheistic socialism descended over Central Europe.

After Tito’s death in 1980 and the subsequent fall of communism in 1989, the nation of Yugoslavia descended into anarchy and civil war. Today, the former Yugoslavia has self-divided along religious beliefs and ethnicity.

Now there are predominantly Catholic Christian states, Orthodox Christian states and Muslim states. All are now living peaceably and have expanding economies.

Many of the Islamic states of the Middle East were also formed after the downfall of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War. Their borders were drawn up by colonial powers (England and France). The secretive Sykes–Picot Agreement, officially known as the Asia Minor Agreement, defined their proposed spheres of influence and control in the Middle East. Dictators were essentially appointed and supported by various foreign powers, including the United States.

What is now happening in Syria and Iraq is, I fear, inevitable. People yearn for freedom and stable economies–better futures. Today we are witnessing the breakup of these “forced” states along religious and ethnic lines. In the case of Syria and Iraq, Sunni, Shia and Kurds are vying to have dominant influence hoping to form their own independent states.

The challenge for Arab states

KSA Hotspots MapHow will these conflicts that currently surround the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman affect the stability of these nations?

As I write this article, CNN is broadcasting that that Al Qaeda and another group new to me is planning attacks on Arabian Peninsula airports and shopping malls.

There is growing concern about Islamic extremism here and elsewhere. As well-publicized bouts of violence, from civil war to suicide bombings, plague the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, concern about Islamic extremism is high among countries with substantial Muslim populations, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center.

Lebanese, Tunisians, Egyptians, Jordanians and Turks are all more worried about the extremist threat than they were a year ago. Men and women living in Muslim states hold very negative opinions of well-known extremist groups, such as al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah.

Last evening, Prince Turki al Faisal, former Saudi ambassador to the US and former Saudi intelligence chief, was interviewed by CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour. (See posted interview at the end of this article.)

Prince Turki believes ISIS is a threat to world peace. He argued that the the major powers must come together to confront ISIS.

“Look how many American young people, French, English and other misguided western youth are joining the ranks of ISIS,” he said. Prince Turki says this is a critical matter that needs to be dealt with by western governments as well as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council states.

Prince Turki says the Muslim world basically wants to live in peace. He believes the kind of terrorist tactics being espoused by ISIS is foreign to the faith of Islam. He concluded his remarks on CNN about ISIS, “It’s a terrorist organization that has specialized in brutal killings, so it is a danger to the whole area and I think to the rest of the world.”

On August 7, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, said extremists are attempting to hi-jack Islam for their own evil use. He condemned Islamist extremists who he said have besmirched Islam by committing atrocities in the name of religion. The King’s comments were read August 7 on Saudi television, “It is shameful and disgraceful that these terrorists are doing this in the name of religion, killing people whose killing Allah has forbidden, and mutilating their bodies and feeling proud in publishing this.”

The ISIS call for a Sunni Islamic caliphate has little support outside the ranks of the organization. Muslim scholars and movements from across the Sunni Islamic spectrum have rejected the caliphate declared by the group, with the fighters receiving scathing criticism from mainstream Muslim leaders. Most recently the chief imam of Turkey has pronounced the ISIS caliphate as illegitimate.

Murder and wanton slaughter of the innocent prohibited

The Qur'an is clear on matters of war and condemns terrorism as worthy of hell.

The Qur’an is clear on matters of war and condemns suicide bombers as worthy of hell fire. The Qur’an provides rules for faith and practice for all Muslims.

All the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) agree that acts of aggressive behavior, especially when it involves murder and massacres of innocent men, women and children, are evil. There is no place within any of these faiths for suicide bombers and acts of aggression.

Abrahamic believers today are of one of two opinions. Some seek to avoid conflict and war all together, declaring themselves pacifists or conscientious objectors. They refuse to fight under any circumstances.

The overwhelming majority consider “just war” appropriate when confronting an agressive enemy that is invading, killing their fellow citizens, and destroying their cities, businesses, farmlands and homes.

In Islam, the Qur’an makes the  following clear:

Suicide is forbidden.  “O ye who believe!… [do not] kill yourselves, for truly God has been to you Most Merciful.  If any do that in rancour and injustice, soon shall We cast him into the Fire…” (Qur’an 4:29-30).

The taking of life is allowed only by way of justice (i.e. the death penalty for murder), but even then, forgiveness is encouraged.  “Nor take life – which God has made sacred – except for just cause…” (Qur’an 17:33).

In pre-Islamic Arabia, retaliation and mass murder was commonplace.  If someone was killed, the victim’s tribe would retaliate against the murderer’s entire tribe.  This practice was directly forbidden in the Qur’an (2:178-179). Following this statement of law, the Qur’an says, “After this, whoever exceeds the limits shall be in grave chastisement” (Qur’an 2:178).

No matter what wrong we perceive as being done against us, we may not lash out against an entire population of people. The Qur’an admonishes those who oppress others and transgress beyond the bounds of what is right and just.  “The blame is only against those who oppress men with wrongdoing and insolently transgress beyond bounds through the land, defying right and justice.  For such there will be a chastisement grievous (in the Hereafter)” (Qur’an 42:42).

Harming innocent bystanders, even in times of war, was forbidden by the Prophet Muhammad.  This includes women, children, noncombatant bystanders–even animals, trees and crops.  Nothing is to be harmed unless the aggressor is actively engaged in an assault against Muslims.

Listen to this interview conducted from Jeddah last evening by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour with Saudi Prince Turki al Faisal.

Sources: CNN, CBS News, Arab News, wikipedia.org, Saudi Gazette, New York Times, The Huffington Post, Aljazeera Internatioanl News, National Post (Jordan), islamicity.com, answering-islam.org, Al Arabiya News

July 2, 2014 Posted by | Human Rights, Islam, Religious Reconciliation, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Happy Ramadan, everybody!

Colorful lanterns are often light to celebrate the month of Ramadan.

During Ramadan lanterns and lamps of various kinds, hues and degrees of brightness are often strung in homes and businesses.

A time of rejoicing, fasting and prayer

From Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Sam wishes all a very happy Ramadan!

From Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Sam wishes all his friends around the world a very happy Ramadan! (Click on photos to enlarge.)

Today, 29 June 2014, marks the first day of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which is the most important time of the year for Muslims worldwide.

This is my third year to join in the celebration of Ramadan in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, having moved to Jeddah in December 2011.

Ramadan is viewed by children as a wonderfully magical time. Neighborhood houses and businesses are often adorned with strings of colored, lighted lanterns. During Ramadan lanterns and lamps of various kinds, hues and degrees of brightness are often strung in homes and businesses. Many stories of their origins have been told. One legend has it that the Fatimid Caliph Al Hakim Bi-Amr Illah wanted to light the streets of Cairo during Ramadan nights, so he ordered all the sheikhs of mosques to hang Fawanees that could be illuminated by candles. As a result, the Fanoos became a custom that has never been abandoned.

Homes seem to be perfumed constantly with the mixed smells of food and burning incense—all serving as a constant reminder that this month is a very special time of the year.

The uninterrupted chanting of Qur’an verses emanating from nearby mosques indicate the absolute solemnity of Ramadan.

It is an intrinsically sacred time for all Muslims. It was during the month of Ramadan that the first revelations of the holy Qur’an were first revealed to the Prophet Mohammed by the Archangel Gabriel.

The Qur’an is the holy book of Muslims, being recited daily year-round through prayers and worship. It is the basis for reflection in guiding the lives of Muslim men, women and children.

A time of renewal, drawing closer to God

During Ramadan, Muslims will fast and engage in extra prayers and worship, as a means of drawing nearer to God.

Ramadan is the ninth Islamic month. The Islamic calendar is based on a lunar calendar, and the lunar calendar which is 10 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar. It, therefore, takes 30 years for the calendar to rotate full cycle.

Fasting and prayer are from dawn to dusk during Ramadan, which presents greater challenges to Muslims living in the far northern regions where they are expected to stick to the rules, no matter how long the fasting period may be. Fasting in northern Canada or the Nordic states of Norway, Sweden, and Finland is especially difficult, but the blessings of fulfilling the fast are even greater.

The Prophet Muhammad taught that “whoever does not give up lying or cursing during Ramadan, God has no need for that person to give up his food or drink” – which emphasizes that Ramadan is not just about avoiding food or drink, but also working on who one purports to be as a person.

As a spiritual support to achieve one’s goal, Muslims will attend their mosques more often. In the evenings there will be a special extended prayer time.

A Muslim family breaks the fast at sundown with Iftar.

A Muslim family breaks the fast at sundown with Iftar.

A month of empathy and gratitude

Ramadan is known as the “month of empathy.” Ramadan is an exercise in empathy for the more than 2 billion people in the world who live in poverty, but it’s also a lesson in gratitude.

During this 30-day period Muslims put themselves in the shoes of people who are in dire straits—people who are suffering deprivation of all kinds: thirst, hunger, homelessness, sickness, pain, etc.

This month at Tuqwa Mosque in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, as in all mosques around the world, the brothers and sisters gather five times a day for prayer, fellowship and encouragement while reflecting on the needs of others in their community and worldwide.

Collections are made for the poor. Individuals are encouraged to carry out distributions to the poor. It is common to find men, women and children on street corners distributing dates and water to passersby at sundown for the breaking of the fast.

The ultimate “anger management” course

Men and women seek to draw closer to God through prayer and reading the Qur'an.

Men and women seek to draw closer to God through increased prayer times and reading the Qur’an.

Along with learning and practicing empathy towards others, one is to learn patience.

For 30 consecutive days the faithful are put into a situation where they will face are going to be hungry, sugar levels are low, and the chances are that one is going to get a bit edgy and agitated, so either one develops a rather foul mood for the month of Ramadan or one deals with it successfully for 30 days.

Ramadan is likened by Dr Mansur Ali Jameel, lecturer in Islamic Studies at the Center for the Study of Islam at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom, as “the best possible anger management course.”

Muslims are advised to control and deny anger. If one feels anger rising within, one is encouraged to take refuge in God.

The Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) said, “If a man gets angry and says, ‘I seek refuge with God from the accursed Satan,’ his anger will go away.” Saying this, Muslims believe, will make it easier to control your anger, as it will remind you that it’s being increased by Satan’s whisperings and that he is rubbing his hands with glee at your rising temper!

Standing makes one feel strong, agressive and powerful and ready for fight. So if one gets angry while standing one is directed to follow the Prophet’s advice: “When one of you becomes angry while standing, he should sit down. If the anger leaves him, well and good; otherwise he should lie down” (Abu Dawud and Al Tirmidhi).

Remembering God and the coming judgment

Noor Khan helps load food bags for different charities that were picking up the donated food bags at the Al Hijra School in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. The food and cash donations were collected by the local Muslim community.

Noor Khan helps load food bags for different Canadian charities. The food and cash donations were collected by the local Windsor, Ontario, Muslim community.

All the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) teach that there will most definitely be a final day when all humankind will stand before God in Judgment. Jesus spoke of the Judgment Day when he walked among men. He said “Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of’ Judgment” (Matthew 12:36). We’re told in Hadith Jibra’il, that one is: “…to worship God as though you are seeing Him, and while you see Him not yet—truly He sees you” (Al-Bukhari).

Such God-consciousness (tuqwa) is a good practice for all who claim to believe in the God of Abraham!

One should strive to live each moment, fully aware of God’s presence, living in the knowledge that He is watching everything done by humankind—that someday there will be an accounting for one’s behavior here on earth.

Ramadan is a great time to demonstrate repentance, seeking renewal in one’s relationship with God, to gain forgiveness and peace through increased reverence and worship and to prepare oneself for that final, great Judgment Day.

A firm faith in God is the beginning of that journey—but it must be proved that it is a genuine faith that leads to changed behavior while reflecting on the needs of others and exercising self-restraint; engendering greater love, dedication and service to our almighty God.

Eid al Fitr celebrations

Ramadan ends with the festival Eid al Fitr, which in 2014 occurs on July 28. Literally the “Festival of Breaking the Fast,” Eid al Fitr is one of the two most important Islamic celebrations (the other occurs after the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca). At Eid al Fitr people dress in their finest clothes, adorn their homes with lights and decorations, give treats to children, and enjoy visits with friends and family.

A sense of generosity and gratitude colors these festivities. Although charity and good deeds are always important in Islam, they have special significance at the end of Ramadan. As the month draws to a close, Muslims are obligated to share their blessings by feeding the poor and making contributions to mosques and community nonprofit organizations.

In many parts of the world Ramadan is celebrated with spiritual music. Enjoy this Ramadan song by contemporary Muslim recording artist Maher Zain:

Sources: Arab News, Saudi Gazette, ramadan2014.net, The Windsor Star, Time Magazine

June 29, 2014 Posted by | Archeology, Islam | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rapping with Germans and Saudis in Jeddah

German and Saudi rappers mix it up

More than 60 aspiring Saudi rappers packed out the German consulate general's home in Jeddah to learn about rap and hip hop.

Some of the more than 60 aspiring Saudi rappers who packed out the German consulate general’s home in Jeddah to learn more about rap and hip hop.

German Consul General Rolf Theodor Schuster held a “mind-blowing” concert put on by German and Saudi rappers at his residence here in Jeddah on Wednesday evening, January 30. This live performance was given ample coverage in the local Saudi Gazette. I went out to dinner with these rappers and hip hop artists later in the evening.

A “Jeddah Hip Hop Jam,” organized by the German Consulate General in cooperation with Universal Legends Entertainment, was a cross-cultural event which featured well-known German singer and producer Max Herre and Saudi rapper “Qusai.” Qusai has made quite a name for himself, having co-hosted MTV Arabia’s Hip Hop Na music competition back in 2007. Since then, he has hosted the two latest editions of Arab TV’s Arabs Got Talent, and he has won the epithet of “Middle East’s Hip-Hop Ambassador.” Qusai and Herre were accompanied by talented Jeddah hip hop crews “J-FAM” and “Run Junction.”

The Artists channeled a mixture of emotions through their music ranging from concern for the latest social developments in the region to a genuine respect for the traditional Arabic and Muslim culture.

The Saudi Gazette gave an excellent review of the the evening’s music, stating, “The concert showed a rare acknowledgement of Saudi artists’ level of maturity and their ability to portray their exact socio-cultural context without suggesting stereotypical hip-hop rhymes as well as allowing deeper understanding of the German hip-hop tradition which is somewhat influenced by the Middle East.”

Three-day workshop for aspiring Saudi rappers

Arabs Got Talent TV host  and rapper artist  Qusai Kheder.

Arabs Got Talent TV host and rapper artist Qusai Kheder.

The live performances were followed by a three-day workshop involving 60 young local aspiring rappers and producers. The workshop enabled the upcoming Saudi musicians a chance to personally meet and share experiences with Qusai, Herre and J-FAM, who recorded a song together, premiering their collaborative work at the event.

The concert was opened by the energetic and Saudi-based acts Run Junction and J-FAM. Both crews paid a musical tribute to Jeddah, creating a pleasant atmosphere, followed by German rapper Herre, who enthusiastically shared information about his 20 years of experience in the music industry.

Herre was greeted enthusiastically by the audience. Responding to his local devotees, he encouraged them to look around them for inspiration. He said, “I find inspiration in personal experiences and the society that surrounds me. The social consciousness demonstrated in these years by young Arab citizens who took action to defend their rights was a great stimulus for my own creativity.”

Herre said he was impressed by the local Saudi talent and encouraged the rappers to come out with their own original stories.

Life’s experiences are their inspiration

Herre was interviewed by The Saudi Gazette, and there he spoke about inspiration that comes from hard times and good times. He said Saudi rap must be about Saudi experiences. “I always tell young talents to talk about their lives and experiences exploiting the lyrical potentialities of their native language instead of imitating American rappers.”

Herre also said networking with other artists was crucial.  “Before competing, it’s important to be united through a common networking platform. It’s fundamental to go on the internet, search for other rap crews from the region, country or town and exploit any networking occasion.”

Qusai entertained the enthusiastic Jeddah crowd with some of his popular hits in both English and Arabic.

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Qusai explained the concept behind his latest album, “I believe the millennium is the true change that started in 2011 when Arabs woke up and started to express themselves. And change is certain; it happened, it’s happening, and it will happen. It’s inevitable.”

A big “Hats off!” to the German consulate for their support of these artists!

Here’s one of Qusai’s songs from his album Yalla:

February 17, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A day and a night in the desert with Bedouin friends

Sam (in white thawb), pictured here with (l-r) Majed Olayan, Majed Bandar and Fahad Olayan, is given expert Bedouin instruction in hunting desert quail with an heirloom 12-gauge, single-shot shotgun!

Sam (in white thobe), pictured here with (l-r) Majed Olayan, Majed Bandar and Fahad Olayan, is given expert Bedouin instruction in hunting desert quail with an heirloom 12-gauge, single-shot shotgun!

Back in the desert, hunting for quail

Abdullah Al Ghamdi picked me up yesterday afternoon, and we headed for a rendezvous with my Bedouin friends near the Red Sea coast town of Radigh–about 150 miles north of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. There we met up with the Olayan brothers Majed and Fahad and their friend Majed Bandar. Abdullah and I jumped into Fahad’s Toyota 4×4 Cruiser, and we drove out over and around the dunes into the Arabian desert.

It led to an afternoon hunting desert quail and remembering how God provided manna and quail to the Children of Israel as they grumbled their way through the Sinai wilderness for some 40 years. Alas, having shot no quail, we set our sights on a few plastic bottles for target practice, and then headed into a nearby town to purchase some fresh red sea fish from a local market. Then we enjoyed an evening of Bedouin music, fried fish, rice and fresh frothy camel milk from a camel that was standing a few steps away!

The majority of Bedouins in the past have traditionally lived a nomadic lifestyle, spreading from the Persian Gulf all the way across northern Africa to the Atlantic Ocean in West Africa, and from the borders of Turkey as far south as Yemen.

The word “bedouin” comes from the Arab word bedou, meaning “desert dweller.” Estimates today indicate nomadic Bedouins constitute about one-tenth of the population of the Middle East.

In my many meetings with Bedouins it has become all too apparent, that Bedouins regard themselves as the “true Arabs” and the “heirs of glory.” The family I visited yesterday were exultant when they showed me some of their 60 incredible camels and more than 1,000 very well shepherded goats.

I’m very grateful to my Bedouin friends for hosting me for one of the most incredible days of my life.

Bedouin families still enjoy desert life, herding goats and camels is often a very profitable livelihood.

Bedouin families still enjoy desert life. Herding goats and camels is often a very profitable livelihood.

Life in the desert

Bedouin life is generally pastoral-desert; herding camels, sheep, goats and occasionally, when the climate is not so harsh, cattle. Through the centuries they have migrated seasonally, depending on grazing conditions. In winter, when there is some rain, they migrate deeper into the desert. In the hot, dry summer time, they camp around secure water sources. Bedouins define themselves as members of tribes and families. People are divided into social classes, depending on ancestry and profession. Passing from one class to another is relatively feasible, but marriage between a man and a woman of different meets with difficulty. 

Traditionally, the Bedouin’s home, the tent, is divided into three sections by curtains: the men’s section, the family section and the kitchen. In the men’s area, guests are received around the hearth where the host prepares coffee over the fire. This is the center of Bedouin social life. Tea is served as a welcome drink; coffee is usually prepared after the meal and is the last drink before the guest leaves. The serving of food and drink represents the generous hospitality of the host. The men pass the evening trading news and discussing their animals. Separated by a curtain, the women gather in the family area and kitchen along with their small children to bake bread and prepare the main meal. A dinner of rice and chunks of mutton or lamb are usually then served to the gathered guests.

Women occupy a very important position in Bedouin society. Not only do they raise the children, they also share in herding the sheep, milking the animals, cooking, spinning yarn and making family clothes. Some even weave the heavy cloth that constitutes the tent.

The O... brothers sing typical Bedouin tunes using -------- instruments.

The Olayan brothers sing typical Bedouin tunes tapping out the beats on percussion instruments.

Around our fire last evening, the Olayan brothers recited ancient Bedouin poetry and sang, accompanied by traditional percussion drums and cymbals  Poetry has been a central cultural form of expression for the Bedouins since ancient times. In the early centuries of Islamic history, I’m told Bedouin poetry represented the ideal standard for other literary achievements, as well as for the refinement of the Arabic language.

To mark the end of the evening, Ali, our host, burned incense in a mabkhara (incense burner) passing it to each of his guests to inhale and fan their clothes.

The traditional Bedouin foods are fresh camel or goat milk and meat. Bedouins usually sell and barter their animals and meat in exchange for fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices  from other tribes or village markets.

Bedouin society has a strict code of honor which dictates proper behavior for all members, including children. Because of the demanding nature of the Bedouin lifestyle, children are expected to assume a considerable amount of responsibility in order to help their families survive. Although modernization has changed the Bedouin lifestyle somewhat, emphasis is placed on teaching children to carry on traditional ways of life. While the advancement of modern technology is not considered terribly important to children’s education, as we sat around the fire last evening, I did notice two of the younger boys were captivated by video games they were playing on their dad’s smart phone.

Faith among the Bedouins

Islam’s prophet Mohammed was born and raised in the Bedouin tribe of the Quraish during the 7th Century. The Qur’an, believed to be first revealed to Mohammed by the Archangel Gabriel, was soon after written and compiled in the Arabic language. The first converts to Islam came from the Bedouin tribes living in and around Mecca. Therefore, Islam is embedded and deeply rooted in Bedouin culture.

Although there are pockets of Christians in Middle East Bedouin tribes, especially in Palestine, by and large the word Bedouin is synonymous with being a follower of Islam or a “submitter” to God. Prayer is an integral part of Bedouin life. As there are no formal mosques in the desert, they pray where they are, performing the ritual washing, or with sand where water is not readily available. There they humbly bow their faces to the earth, facing Mecca, five times a day. 

Challenges of modern society

In modern Arab states and Israel, Bedouins are faced with many challenges in their lifestyle, as their traditional Islamic, tribal culture has begun to mix with western practices. Men are more likely to adjust and interact with the modern cultures, but in many places women are still bound by honor and tradition to mostly stay within the family dwelling. They have in the past lacked opportunity for education and advancement, but in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Dubai and other more advanced nations, times are changing.

As well, governments have a strong tendency to regulate Nomadic lifestyles since it is only then that taxation works. Providing services for the people also works best in an urban setting. Today, the Arab world has one of the highest rates of urbanization in the world.

As traditional Bedouin lifestyle become less and less attractive, in Saudi Arabia, especially on the steppes  many of these desert tribes live on, as tradition has a strong hold. But today, many Bedouins are now bowing to increasing pressure, opting to settle in urban areas. It was at a South Jeddah camel market last June that I met the Olayan brothers.

Today, it is not uncommon to see a young Bedouin family building a house and living in it while their parents pitch their tent in the rear garden, where they will live very happily until the end of their days.

I hope you’ll take a few moments to enjoy this short video of Jordanian Bedouin musicians!

Sources: The Olayan brothers, Wikipedia, YouTube, InterNations, Facts & Details

February 15, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Dune bashing” in Saudi Arabia

Hundreds of “dune bashers” gather in the desert to ride the dunes outside Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, every Friday afternoon.

Sam with Ra'id Baty duing their dune bashing escapade in the Saudi desert. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

Sam with Ra’id Baty duing their dune bashing escapade in the Saudi desert. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

Riding the dunes near Jeddah

Yesterday my Saudi friend Ra’id Baty came by to pick me up. He said, “Sam, we’re taking you to something really special. We’re going to a car rally in the desert near Mecca.” I really didn’t know what to expect, but I quickly changed into my Saudi thawb and climbed on board.We headed south from Jeddah in Ra’id’s Toyota 4J Cruiser, eventually turning off the road. As we took off directly into the desert, we flew by several other SUVs and suped-up trucks that had stopped to let some air out of their tires in order to get more traction in the sand. We were roler-coastering up and down over several miles of huge sand dunes.

So now I’ve discovered a favorite weekend pastime for many Saudi young people and adults—“dune bashing.”

A very popular desert sport

I was told that in other Arab states there are “dune bashing” tours for tourists, but in Saudi Arabia people take to the desert dunes in their own vehicles. Here you drive your own car, or you rent an ATV from some local Bedouins.

We continued in Ra’id’s Cruiser until we happened on what must have been a thousand other Saudis who were gathered with their 4×4’s of all makes and models, some modified with thousand-horsepower engines.

Weekend "Dune-bashing" attracts thousads to the desert outside Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Weekend “dune bashing” attracts thousands to the desert outside Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

We drove almost straight up one of the more moderate dunes and parked our 4×4 on top. We got out and joined other onlookers in the swirling Saudi desert sands for an amazing two-hour show.

A tricky sport to master 

Ra’id said the soft sands can make driving very complicated, and just having a 4×4 vehicle may not prove to be enough for a successful dune bashing outing. He said knowing how to get unstuck in the treacherous sand is just as important as learning how to drive in the desert.

I found out that getting stuck will not only be hard on your vehicle, but can also possibly leave you stranded in the sand for hours while you wait for help. If you’re driving alone through the dunes (not recommended!), many drivers look for camel manure or hoofprints, as these are said to be sure signs of hard and compacted sand.

A word to my environmentally conscious friends! For any who might be concerned about the environmental degradation of the desert, I assure you that any disturbances to the dunes are quickly corrected, as the dunes are constantly in motion, being pushed along by the desert winds.

Take a second to watch this short clip of a Saudi “dune basher.” This is the kind of extreme competitive rivalry we saw:

January 5, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Saudi Arabian falconry–an amazing UN World Heritage Sport

Falconry has a long history stretching from ancient Mongolia to Europe and the Middle East.

Falconry has a long history stretching from ancient Mongolia to Europe and the Middle East.

Sam is introduced to "Sushan," a Bedouin hunting falcon.

Sam is introduced to “Shuja,” a Bedouin hunting falcon.

“Shuja” pays me a visit

Abdulla Al Ghamdi and two of my Saudi Bedouin military friends, brothers Majed and Fahad Olayan, dropped by my office a couple of days ago for a surprise visit with their Saker falcon “Shuja” (Arabic for courageous or brave).  “Shuja” is being trained for hunting rabbits in the nearby deserts.

The falcon, among birds known as “raptors” or “birds of prey,” has amazingly acute vision and can identify prey at a distance of several kilometres. It can fly at speeds of over 100 km per hour, approaching 200 km per hour during dives.

The art of falconry is a big deal here in Saudi Arabia, with well-trained birds selling for thousands of dollars.

Hunting with birds of prey

Falconry has been practiced in many forms for thousands of years by many cultures.  Some specialists place falconry’s origins somewhere between 4,000 and 6,000 BC in the plains of Mongolia. Other historians believe that the practice could be much older, with its beginnings in the deserts of the Middle East, particularly here on the Arabian Peninsula.

Wherever it began, falconry, which was originally used for subsistence and not sport, was well established in both Asia and the Middle East by 2,000 BC, and gradually made its way westward to Greece, Italy and eventually to Medieval Europe.

European falconry

Beginning in the early 6th century and extending through the Middle Ages, the popularity of falconry (or “hawking”) surged in Europe. It was the sport of royalty for centuries. The possession of falcons and other birds of prey was considered a status symbol.

And talking about regulation, get this! By the 17th century in England, falconry came to be governed by a strict set of customs called the Laws of Ownership, which dictated the birds of prey that were permitted to be flown by citizens of various social ranks. For example, a king could fly a gyrfalcon; a duke, a rock falcon; an earl, a peregrine; a yeoman, a goshawk; and a servant, a kestrel.

During the reign of Edward III, 1327-77, stealing a trained raptor was punishable by death.

Falconry is believed by many to have been a part of Arabian Bedouin life for thousands of years. These ancient birds of prey are still used for hunting rabbits and desert quail.

Saudi falconry today

Once the pastime of the rich, falconry now continues as a highly structured sport that demands a lot of time and serious commitment. For some Bedouins it remains a primary method of hunting rabbits and other desert animals.

Saudi birds are generally bred in captivity and when hunting, often have a small radio transmitter attached under the tail for tracking.

Training a falcon is time-consuming and requires enormous patience since the falconer must carry the bird on his arm for several hours each day. That might be possible for the Bedouin, but try fitting that into a regular 21st century work schedule!

The falcon hunting season here in Saudi Arabia is from October to March. The two most popular falcons are the Saker and the Peregrine. The Saker is valued both for its outstanding beauty and for its ability to withstand adverse weather conditions. Because the Saker completes its annual moult early, it can start hunting in October, while the Peregrine may not have sufficient feathers until January.

Nothing compares to God’s falcon

In the Old Testament (Torah) book of Job there is a reference to the keen sight of this wondrous raptor, “No bird of prey knows that hidden path, no falcon’s eye has seen it.”

The celebrated 13th-century Persian Muslim poet, in his work “Mathnawi,” wrote, “The falcon made the king’s hand his joy, and became indifferent to the search for carrion. All animals from the gnat to the elephant are of the family of God and depend on Him for sustenance. What a sustainer is God!”

The motion picture industry has championed films like The Maltese Falcon and Day of the Falcon. And in America we have our Atlanta Falcons football team. Oregon has it’s Falcon Cove. The US Air Force has its Falcon F-16 and Raptor F-22 fighter jets. But certainly no man-made imaginary compares to God’s incredible creation of this eagle-eyed, warp-speed hunter of the Arabian Peninsula.

The United Nations has proclaimed falconry a World Heritage Sport. Watch this short video I found on YouTube about this popular Saudi sport:

November 13, 2012 Posted by | Animal Rights, Arabian Desert, Geography, Jeddah History, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Our Muslim brothers!

This editorial by Jewish political leader, writer and peace activist Uri Avnery appeared in today’s Saudi national publication ArabNews. I was so impressed that I’m copying it here on my blog. My heart rejoices! Now is the time for Middle East peace! ~ Sam

“Our Muslim Brothers” by Jewish peace activist Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery, three-term member of the Israeli Knesset, writer and founding member of the independent peace movement Gush Shalom. He is also a founding member of the Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace.

Everybody knows by now why we are stuck in Palestine. When God instructed Moses to plead with Pharaoh to let his people go, Moses told him that he was unfit for the job because “I am slow of speech and of a slow tongue” (Exodus 4:10).

Actually, in the Hebrew original, Moses told God that he was “heavy of the mouth and heavy of the tongue.” He should have told Him that he was also heavy of the ears. So when God told him to take his people to Canada, he took his people to Canaan, spending the prescribed 40 years — just long enough to reach Vancouver — wandering hither and thither in the Sinai desert.

So here we are, in Canaan, surrounded by Muslims.

For decades, my friends and I have warned that if we dither in making peace, the nature of the conflict will change. I myself have written dozens of times that if our conflict is transformed from a national to a religious struggle, everything will change for the worse.

The Zionist-Arab struggle started as a clash between two great national movements, which were born more or less at the same time as offshoots of the new European nationalism.

Almost all the early Zionists were convinced atheists, inspired (and pushed out) by the European nationalist movements. They used religious symbols quite cynically — to mobilize the Jews and as a propaganda tool for the others.

The Arab resistance to the Zionist settlement was basically secular and nationalist, too. It was a part of the rising wave of nationalism throughout the Arab world. True, the leader of the Palestinian resistance was Hadj Amin Al-Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, but he was both a national and a religious leader, using religious motives to reinforce the national ones.

National leaders are supposed to be rational. They make war and they make peace. When it suits them, they compromise. They talk to each other.

Religious conflicts are quite different. When God is inserted into the matter, everything becomes more extreme. God may be compassionate and loving, but His adherents are generally not. God and compromise don’t go well together. Especially not in the holy land of Canaan.

Years ago, the historian Karen Armstrong, a former nun, wrote a thought-provoking book (“The Battle for God”) about religious fundamentalism. She put her finger on an astonishing fact: Christian, Jewish and Islamic fundamentalist movements were very much alike.

Delving into the history of fundamentalist movements in the US, Israel, Egypt and Iran, she discovered that they were born at the same time and underwent the same stages. Since there is very little similarity between the four countries and the four societies, not to mention the three religions, this is a remarkable fact.

The inevitable conclusion is that there is something in the Zeitgeist of our time, which encourages such ideas, something not anchored in the remote past, which is glorified by the fundamentalists, but in the present.

In Israel, it started on the morrow of the 1967 war, when the Army Chief Rabbi, Shlomo Goren, went to the newly “liberated” Western Wall and blew his Shofar (religious ram’s horn). Yeshayahu Leibowitz called him “the Clown with the shofar,” but throughout the country it evoked a resounding echo.

Before the Six Days, the religious wing of Zionism was the stepchild of the movement. For many of us, religion was a tolerated superstition, looked down upon, used by politicians for reasons of expediency.

The overwhelming victory of the Israeli army in that war looked like divine intervention, and the religious youth sprang into life. It was like the fulfillment of Psalm 118 (22): “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.” The pent-up energies of the religious sector, nursed for years in their separate ultra-nationalist schools, burst out.

The result was the settlers’ movement. They raced to occupy every hilltop in the occupied territories. True, many settlers went there to build their dream villas on stolen Arab land and enjoy the ultimate “quality of life.” But at the core of the enterprise are the fundamentalist fanatics, who are ready to live harsh and dangerous lives, because (as the Crusaders used to shout) “God Wills It!”

The whole raison d’être of the settlements is to drive the Arabs out of the country and turn the whole land of Canaan into a Jewish state. In the meantime their shock troops carry out pogroms against their Arab “neighbors” and burn their mosques.

These fundamentalists now have a huge influence on our government’s policy, and their impact is growing. For example: for months now, the country has been ablaze after the Supreme Court decreed that five houses in Bet El settlement must be demolished, because they were built on private Arab land. In a desperate effort to prevent riots, Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to build in their stead 850 new houses in the occupied territories. Such things happen all the time.

But let there be no mistake: After the cleansing of the country of non-Jews, the next step would be to turn Israel into a “halakha state” — a country governed by religious law, with the abolition of all democratically enacted secular laws that do not conform to the word of God and His rabbis.

Since the start of the Arab Spring, the fledgling Arab democracy has brought Muslim fundamentalists to the fore. Actually, that started even before, when Hamas (an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood) won the democratic, internationally monitored elections in Palestine. However, the resulting Palestinian government was destroyed by the Israeli leadership and its subservient US and European subcontractors.

The victory of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Egyptian presidential elections was a landmark. After similar victories in Tunisia and the events in Libya, Yemen and Syria, it is clear that Arab citizens everywhere favor the Muslim Brotherhood and similar parties.

The Brotherhood has always been a moderate party, though they almost always had a more extreme wing. Whenever possible, they tried to accommodate the successive Egyptian leaders — Abdul Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak – though they tried to eradicate them.

During their 84 years, they have seen many ups and downs. But mostly, their outstanding quality has been pragmatism, coupled with adherence to the principles of their religion.

This also determines their attitude toward Israel. Palestine is constantly on their mind — but that is true of all Egyptians. Their conscience is troubled by the feeling that at Camp David, Anwar Sadat betrayed the Palestinians. Or, worse, that the devious Jew, Menachem Begin, tricked Sadat into signing a document that did not say what Sadat thought it said. It is not the Brothers that caused the Egyptians who greeted us enthusiastically, the first Israelis to visit their country, to turn against us.

Throughout the heated election campaigns — four in a year — the Brotherhood has not demanded the abrogation of the peace agreement with Israel. Their attitude seems to be as pragmatic as ever.

All our neighbors are turning, slowly but surely, Islamic.

That is not the end of the world. But it surely compels us, for the first time, to try to understand Islam and the Muslims.

For centuries, Islam and Judaism had a close and mutually beneficial relationship. The Jewish sages in Muslim Spain, the great Maimonides and many other prominent Jews were close to Islamic culture and wrote some of their works in Arabic.

If we want Israel to exist and flourish in a region that will for a long time be governed by democratically elected Islamist parties, we would do well to welcome them now as brothers, congratulate them on their victories and work for peace and conciliation with elected Islamists in Egypt and the other Arab states, including Palestine. We must certainly resist the temptation to push the Americans into supporting another military dictatorship in Egypt, Syria and elsewhere. Let’s chose the future, not the past.

Unless we prefer to pack up and head for Canada, after all.

 

June 26, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments