Saturday, January 16, 2010

Lina Sinjab's Syria

Sigh...Lina Sinjab but this time on women in Syria. I'm thinking of having a label on this blog specifically for Lina Sinjab. Her articles truly amuse me, especially that there are so few Syrians who write professionally about the country for a prominent news outlet such as the BBC.

In her article, notice how bars are filled with "liberal-minded" Damascenes. The word liberal is by itself an adjective which means good, or open minded. There is no politics in Syria, only the archaic equation that barra, "outside" (as in the West) automatically equates to enlightenment, civilization and open-mindedness.

Lina begins her article with a fluffy image of all the ripe promise that Damascus can be one day, then we descend into the darkness of arranged marriages, conservative Syria and a stifling tradition. She describes what is actually a typical Syrian wedding, in all its happiness and quirkiness, as something sinister and dark. Since when Ms. Sinjab, has it been odd or demeaning that single women in weddings will try to attract attention to themselves, or is it only alright for that to happen in America because you saw it on a "rom-com" but not because they are Arabs or Muslims?

Later in the article, we look at what it is that Ms. Sinjab really admires, " Dressed in jeans and tight trendy tops, with modern hairstyles, they chat, swapping details of their busy lives." These are the two rebels that Lina portrays as the hope for her vision of Syria.

These two women, it is implied, are liberated, strong and independent. Also implied is that Syrian men are weak because they cannot handle this, because they are insecure. Now this theme is quite popular in British or American news columns which like to portray Arab men as weak and so in need of "dominating" their women. The Western man wants to sleep with the Eastern woman, but in this article, we are now shown a female that has internalised that logic so that the Eastern man is no good for her, she wants the open minded Western, or Westernised Arab [read castrated], man to come and sleep with her. Then notice the cigarette, the "torch of freedom", that the strong, independent lawyer lights up with. Edward Bernays would be proud. This is not sinister at all for Ms. Sinjab. In fact it is something which we should find admirable.

I would love nothing more than someone like the woman she described to bring up my kids in a beautiful Americana la-la land away from those ugly un-photogenic Syrian people who have morals or principles, or who might pray, or who speak that funny language that's written in strange squiggles from right to left. I'd love to have my kids be that liberal-minded.

For Lina Sinjab, the modern Syrian woman is loud, assertive, independent and sexually liberated. She has her own penis (cigarettes) like the man, and is fighting for her place in Syrian society. Truly a bold vision. Of course any woman who is not like that is cowed by her family and tradition, a second class citizen with no voice or aspiration. Apparently the hejab covers a woman's brain and not just her hair.

Having said all this, I know there are problems in Syria, and that tradition is stifling, but I refuse to allow somebody like Lina Sinjab to speak for these issues. Syria's nouveau rich of the past forty years have produced a generation of "Ataturkized" young professionals, much like Ms Sinjab and, if you are unfortunate to read his articles, Dr Sami Moubayad. What they don't realise is that they are in a painful minority. It is only their money and connections which make them think they are the centre of their own world. Lina's articles are ideological, and that is why I constantly criticise her. As one of the rare outlets for Syria in English, she should know better.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the article. I actually agree with most of your thoughts, I've met her once in Sweden and I didn't like what she said that time. It was about the Syrian reaction on bombing Elbokmal, she said that it was wrong to close the American School. Her argument was that closing the American School will not help students to continue their education there!! Who cares about education when people die!!!

Thanks again,

Safiya Outlines said...

Salaam Alaikum,

Indeed, Lina's articles frustrate me no end, because she's in this great position to tell people about life in Syria, yet all she does is convey the grumbles of the petit bourgeoisie.

For the trillionth time, women in Syria have far more pressing issues then wearing 'tight trendy tops'. Instead of posing in Abu Rumayah (sp), why doesn't she go to Harista ask the people there what they think.

Finally, how depressing that she just wants to turn Damascus into one giant wine bar. One of the things I love most about Syria is that you can go about at night undisturbed by drunks.

Anonymous said...

"Apparently the hejab covers a woman's brain and not just her hair."
Yeah! ; )
If you look for something even more prejudiced than Lina Sinjab's articles, read Marnia Lazreg's book "Questioning the Veil".’s-one-way-correspondence-with-muslim-women/
And they call themselves "liberals"...

Maysaloon said...

Thank you for stopping by and welcome. You're right, it seems like this journalist belongs to a social class that is incapable of grasping that the United States is not an ally, an aspiration, or a standard to be measured against but probably the biggest threat to the region if we discount Israel. This is really worrying...

Maysaloon said...

Apparently it is becoming more and more common to see scenes reminiscent of Leicester square in some parts of Damascus. These people also genuinely think Beirut is a wonderful example to emulate.

Maysaloon said...

Princesse, bien venue and thank you for the quote, albeit unacknowledged above ;) I've been trying to use it somewhere since I read you article. I am reading that link you sent me now. Salam!

Nameless Babble said...

I am not Syrian, but I'm an Arab too (Egyptian) and I checked out the article that you linked to. I am against the discrimination and harassment of women myself, but what Ms Sinjab said was flat-out ridiculous! Wearing the veil doesn't oppress a woman. Dressing revealingly and not following religious rules doesn't make her free.
The Arab world will never truly achieve prosperity until extremism from both sides ceases to exist. Like they say, all things in moderation.

saint said...

You over looked this:
"two women are required to witness a legal document which one man, by himself, could sign."

I would like to know your response to above?

I know she is liberal and she is not balanced in her article. More surely she does not explain the value of the new class who has no values at all and does not deserve commending at the first place.
But sure there are a lot of ills in that society?
Someone has to tell her about those ills and then ask her to write.

مترجم سوري said...

If i put the name of the author aside, coz i don't know much about her or her writings,
and if I put the first part of the article which says "bars are filled with liberal-minded Damascenes " this is one of the most stupid "discrimination" i have ever read, to put those who who go to the bars under the title of "liberal minded" is quite funny.
i mean i wish they were! damascus would have been a better place!
If i put all this aside, i think the rest of the aritcle is a good description of the girls' situation in damascus. though it's not that great thing to be published on BBC , but it's true.


Maysaloon said...

Nameless Babble,
Yes you're right, there seems to be a distinct absence of a middle way. It is a catch-22 in that religious people will not relax until the "other side" stop trying to spread immorality, and vice versa. There does not seem to be an escape from this dichotomy at first glance. But I think it is possible to manage, albeit with much difficulty. It is not a good time to be honest.

Maysaloon said...

Saint, please refer to the post above this one for a response to the point you brought up. I think you mentioned something very important.

Maysaloon said...

I agree Omnia,
In fact at the end of my post I did say that there are many problems in Syria, but I resent the fact of having someone like Lina Sinjab present herself as the consensus view of the problems, or of defining an agenda of problems. This is very bad.

Anonymous said...

Salam et merci pour la bienvenue : )

Just something I'd like to add - that Lina Sinjab's herself can't ignore - is how "modernity" and "women's liberation" have been used as alibis to invade and destroy Afghanistan.
The imperialist use of feminism will never save oppressed women from oppression - because they don't care in fact about women. It will simple change the style of oppression. Personally I would not care that much to be allowed to smoke and wear a bikini if I was (de facto) not allowed to study because universities/libraries/museums/infrastructures/etc. are destroyed by some imperialist war.

I am a feminist myself but I will always be a strong opponent of being an alibi for any "liberal" war and for anyone humiliating Muslim and Arab men in general.

Anonymous said...

Salam aleykum,
have you read this article?
What do you think about it?

yaser said...

first I think that the title is misleading,and she made her point in that reagrd very poorly .
I don't see the point in trying to discret the author however, although I agree that we need a different version of the reality to be told to the outside world.

Maysaloon said...

Thank you for the link. I think it is too late for that. I think HA have those already, and I think Damascus is already a target the next time hostilities arise.

Maysaloon said...

Hello Yaser,
I have been criticising a number of articles by Ms Sinjab, but I don't think I have ever personally criticised her as a person, only her ideas and her writing. I try to maintain some professionalism and courtesy on this blog towards others, as scathing as my words can be.

Nour said...

What I think is funny is how western (or westernized) writers always seem to assume that equality between the sexes has been achieved in western societies. That there is no discrimination against women in the west, no sexual harrassment, no sexual objectification, no mysoginy, no physical and psychological abuse against women, etc. While, as you said, Syria certainly has its problems, it is quite farcical to suggest that the nightclubs and bars represent women's liberation and the renaissance of society in general. Rather, these amount to pure useless imitation without any real social value.

Safiya Outlines said...

Salaam Alaikum,

Nour - this is so true! Anyone would think the West is a paradise for women. How I wish that were true.