Saturday, November 28, 2009

Secularism in Syria..

There are many articles which crop up about Syria, mostly dire. This article is no exception. But it is written by Lina Sinjab who, if you have followed me long enough, is usually the subject of much amusement and wonder here at Maysaloon land. The Qubaisia movement is one which has fascinated me and in fact I know a number of families and friends who are now members in the movement. It is one of the few things in Syrian society today which can be seen as a positive change, giving women the control back of their bodies and their lives, and redefining their gender roles. It is in short, an astonishing movement, all the more amazing in that it has survived the brief 'anti-Islamic' phase of Syria's modern history.

The article mixes a sort of amusement with a slight sense of alarm. Women wearing hejabs is never a good thing for these people. Freedom should only be used to make (and justify) mistakes according to their logic. But what makes this article a truly Lina Sinjab article is the 'insider' perspective she gives the BBC's readers. Yes, Lina Sinjab is plugged-in to Syria's "intellectual" elite and, every now and then, she gives us a rare glimpse into this most exclusive, of Syria's many exclusive (and mostly obnoxious), classes. To balance the strong religiosity of the Qubaisia movement, she gives us one voice crying in the wilderness. Kinana Rukbi a web designer, who is supposed to represent the typical Syrian woman on the street.

Kinana says "It is dangerous to Syrian society, especially as there is no balancing trend. Only one side is active, the religious one, but secular people are not active at all."

"Side", Kinana? "Secular people" not active? Way to go in dividing and compartmentalising Syrian society. As if that is needed any further. It is not that what you are saying would be wrong in any other context, it is just that she has no context. The Qubaisia are Syrians, they represent Syrian wives, mothers and daughters who are concerned with the stupidity and shallowness of Syrian society. They are not importing values from abroad without comprehending what it is they are doing, like the 'secular' umm, side (whatever that is). They are reinforcing what Syrians have traditionally learnt and applied, as values, over generations. They remind Syrians of a world view which existed before the French arrived. Something that many people can no longer comprehend as possible.

Unlike in Lebanon, Syria cannot truly be said to have a Syrian 'intellectual' secular class. The dimwits that we usually hear proclaiming secularism are the technocratic, business degree, information technology, doctor/engineer class. It has long been an irony that Syria, a country with what I think is a commendable foreign policy with regards to occupation, is also dominated by a class of people infatuated with Beirut, Europe's "capital of culture" in the Middle East since the end of the first world war (and I mean that in the worst sense possible for what is a glorified nightclub, drug den, and brothel). Support for Hezbullah, or the Palestinians, or Iraq, represents a conundrum for these people. They pay lip service and wave the Syrian flag for the support it gives to these movements. But in my minds eye, I see them being just as comfortable, if they were Egyptians, waving the Egyptian flag, beating up Algerians and praising the wise and pragmatic rule of Husni Mubarak. They are psychophants, and a psychophant is dangerous to have on 'your' side.

Returning to the article, Ms Rukbi wishes for the secular 'side' of Syrian society to engage with everybody. What exactly secular Syrians have to offer, apart from incredibly shallow and simplistic political ideologies or jaded and tired regurgitations of French (dis)enlightenment philosophies and humanism, is a mystery. The Arak, sorry I meant Arab, secularists of Syria have no idea what it is they want, but they will not stop until they get it. Boring us in the process.


yaser said...

your description of the so many discripancies in the behaviour of the "secular" elite is very accurate and it all point out to the hypocracy we are suffering from.
I thought the article was very badly written and you can tell that the writer has a (hidden) agenda, anyway I hope the time comes when we can face our problems and stop hiding our heads in the sands.

Anonymous said...

These Qubaysiat are upper middle class educated and intellectual women. What they seem to be saying is; we tried emancipation and we achieved degradation now let’s rethink our priorities and embrace the Hijab. My mom (a devoted Muslim who is not veiled) argues that the veil isn’t synonymous with real Islam, and she can site chapter and verse in the Koran to support her claim…but her protests are falling on deaf ears. She may be a practicing Muslim but she is unveiled and when one is unveiled in today’s Damascus one suffers. Mom tells of recent women’s reception she was at in Damascus. My mom who is 80 years old and very well respected stood up to greet a young woman who demurred from shaking her hand, because…the woman said; “I assumed she was a Christian!” This was doubly insulting to my mother who loves Christians and is a descendant of Quraish. "What does being a devout Muslim have to do with not shaking hands with a Christian!" my mom says: "we have cherished them as people of the book since the days of the prophet Muhammad." This…" she says "isn't Islam it's exclusionary and hurtful". Syria’s women are trending towards an outward Islamization that assumes that one starts reform from the outside in. We need reform within.