Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Fr Georges Massouh: Rum, Persians, Jews... and Arabs

 Arabic original here.

Rum, Persians, Jews... and Arabs

The Persians are Persians. And the Jews are Jews. But who are the Rum? This is the question that occurred to us when we heard MP Walid Jumblatt's words last Sunday in Aley. We would not have posed this question, had Jumblatt not made a strong connection between the shattering of the Arab dream "into pieces" and the hands of the "Rum, Persians and Jews."

The power of the Byzantine Rum vanished in this country. Their empire ended, thank God, and with its ending the Rum of this country contented themselves with the separation of religion from the state. They contented themselves with the secularism of the state. However, it is certain that Jumblatt did not mean in his statement the Rum of Lebanon and Syria, since they have no power. Rather, he meant the inheritors of the Romans and their empire.

The inheritors of the Persians are the Persians. The inheritors of the Jews are the Jews. But as for the inheritors of the Rum, geographically they are the Ottomans, who have not stopped harming Muslims and non-Muslims and are famous, like the Persians, for their historical assault on everything that is Arab and all who are Arabs. But, if by the Rum he meant the Russians, this would be sensible, as the Russians inherited their religion and civilization from the Romans.

Jumblatt regrets-- and rightly so-- what the situation in our country has become, criticizing the ignorance transmitted throughout the Arab and Islamic world, upon which hope in a better tomorrow is shattered. However, are the Rum and their inheritors, the Persians, and the Jews the only ones who are responsible for the shattering of this beautiful dream? Or are the Arabs-- and especially those with treasures upon the earth and below it-- fundamental participants in the sin and transgression?

Yes, we have returned to the age of ignorance [al-Jahiliyya]. The ignorance of old was without Islam. The proponents of the current ignorance are Muslims. One of the most prominent characteristics of this age of ignorance is abandoning the concept of the single nation "with its Muslims and non-Muslims" in the interest of sectarian, tribal and regional fragmentation and in the interest of mutual hatred, infighting and blood-letting. Is it possible for us to describe the Sunni-Shii struggle as anything other than ignorance? Is killing an innocent person just because he belongs to a different sect not a form of ignorance, resembling the custom of tribes to place responsibility on all members of a rival tribe and so to permit the killing of any individual who belongs to it? Is it part of Islam for Muslims to kill Muslims or is this ignorance?

Returning to Lebanon, there is no doubt that the great ignorance lies in the sectarianism that many praise as the greatest invention of Lebanese genius. The sectarian mentality that regards the religious communities as mere tribes, each with its share of the state, each with its share of corruption and each with its varied external bonds is the mentality that has caused successive wars for over two centuries. It is nothing more than ignorance which eliminates the hope of building the state on the basis of citizenship and equality of rights and obligations among all citizens.

The dream is being shattered. However, those who hold is are responsible before anyone else for its shattering. Rum, Russians, Persians, Jews, neo-Ottomans, Americans, Europeans... they can be blamed, but to no avail, since the language of interests is the only thing that matters for them. The Muslims and Arabs are responsible for realizing their dream and no one else but them will realize it. So then for how long will we continue to believe the saying "Others' war on our land"? Are we so unthinking that we do not realize that there are people playing us for fools?

In order for the dream to become reality, the idols of ignorance must be shattered, the idols of sectarianism, prejudice and religious extremism, the idols of totalitarian, religious and sectarian political parties. The dream begins when it heralds its journey toward changing the actual situation.

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