Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Fr Georges Massouh on the Eclipse of the Arab Nation-State

Arabic original here.

Are Nations Historical Mistakes?

It becomes more certain every day that the sectarian consciousness in our countries continues to be stronger than all other forms of social cohesion. This sectarian consciousness even does away with religious consciousness that could bring together all those who belong to a single religion, across different sects, just as it does away with all common denominators on the basis of which children of the same religion can meet to resolve disagreements and deadly strife.

If religious consciousness was a factor for some in dividing a single country, then sectarian consciousness agitates, not to divide children of the same country, but children of the same religion. This means that sectarian consciousness, whenever it is misused, can be the cause of double strife.

Group consciousness, any group consciousness, is not bad if it is for the sake of solidarity, cooperation, and serving God's creatures and the country. However, when it turns into blind prejudice that permits destruction, expulsion, it becomes an absolute evil and corruption in the earth. What is happening in our countries confirms, without any doubt, that the sectarian sentiment whose fire many breathe has gone far beyond what could be described as blind prejudice.

What we are witnessing today is the result of sectarian bonds being elevated above any other religious, national, or ethnic bonds. Almost a century after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of nation-states, sectarian consciousness and sectarian prejudice remains stronger than national consciousness, despite sugary words about the national bond and the final and eternal nation.

In this context, Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (d. 1897) believed that no bond, not even love of the nation, could replace in the hearts of Muslims the bond created by Islam. Today, however, we can say that no bond, not even the bond of Islam, can replace the Sunni or Shiite sectarian bond.

Group consciousness, any group consciousness, is praiseworthy and honorable when its goal is struggling against a common enemy who occupies the land and violates human rights. However, group consciousness that eliminates citizenship and national cooperation for the sake of an "umma" that is assumed to be boundless, this group consciousness only produces more fragmentation, disunity, backwardness, and decline.

Those in charge of the affairs of Muslims, Sunni or Shiite, politicians or clergy-- at least most of them-- are embroiled in plans that surpass their limited statures and go beyond the borders of their countries. When they work to import foreign wars and struggles by militarizing their followers and inciting them against their fellow citizens of a different sect, this demonstrates that there are those among the Muslims who only see their nations as historical mistakes that must be erased in order to bring back the Islamic Umma, not on an Islamic basis, but on a sectarian basis that declares that those who belong to sects differing from the ruling sect to be unbelievers.

For children of a single nation, city, or street to be divided into two sectarian groups who fight each other, defensively or in support of a war taking place outside their country, simply because this war is being waged among their brothers in religion or sect, means nothing less than the destruction of the religion and the sects together, even apart from it being a cause for the destruction of humanity and the nation.


The Anti-Gnostic said...

To answer the question, it depends on how the nation is drawn. For example, when the British and French drew up the modern Middle Eastern nations, they didn't include the nation of Kurdistan. That was a mistake, and the Kurds are correcting it.

Father Georges is appealing to Syrian and Lebanese Sunnis to prioritize blood over creed. But the Sunnis apparently think their credal nation makes more sense than Father Georges' ethnic ones.

Katja said...

Awhile ago, I remember reading an article about the Christianization of Europe, and that one of the phenomena that came about as part of that was the widespread use of Christian names as opposed to tribal names. That way, if one was named Peter, for example, it didn't immediately let on a person's tribe, but indicated that their Christian faith trumped that. Sadly, it seems that in many places, it's now become more fashionable to go back to the tribal names, but I suppose that's not so shocking, considering how unseriously many people take their faith, provided they had any to begin with. I see the thing with the Christian names, though, as one of the steps toward the ideal that Jesus points to.